Caring for a Dead Turkey 2021

By | November 18, 2021
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Caring for a Dead Turkey 2021

Dead turkeys make lousy pets.

Cloudeight's Thanksgiving Turkey GuideIt’s just a week before Thanksgiving. And here in the good, old, US of A, for many people that means it’s turkey time. In order to keep you safe this Thanksgiving we wanted to publish this highly useful, eclectic guide, so you’d have all these amazing dead turkey tips in plenty of time for your family’s feast!

Did you know that a dead turkey requires more care than a living cat and almost as much care as a living dog?

Cats are pretty good at almost any temperature that people are OK with — whereas dogs are a little more touchy. Dogs seem to do better when it’s cooler. When it’s hot, dogs can get  TTS (Tired Tongue Syndrome) and the panting can be especially annoying when you’re trying to watch something on TV. So, if you’re rich – or smart – have air conditioning installed. That way, both you and the dog will be more comfortable. Cats seem to be comfortable regardless, so they’re cheaper to maintain. You can have cats even if you’re too poor for AC. I’m very familiar with cats – I’ve been an observer of cats for years and I can tell you that they spend most of their lives sleeping on something soft.

Dead Turkeys

This brings me to dead turkeys. Did you know that the most popular kind of dead turkey is a dead turkey that’s been frozen? Statistics prove this, but I don’t have those stats at hand right now. If you’re really interested you can google it. Anyway, dead turkeys are really quite a bit more trouble than a living cat or dog. As you’ll see, dead turkeys require a lot more fuss — especially frozen dead turkeys. 

Consider this: Did you know that a frozen dead turkey can quickly become a semi-frozen deadly turkey if you’re not careful? According to the USDA, a frozen dead turkey “left thawing on the counter more than 2 hours is not at a safe temperature…” Even though the dead turkey may still seem frozen, says the USDA, the outer skin of the dead creature “is in the “Danger Zone” between 40 and 140 °F — at a temperature where foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly. “ I don’t know about you but my house is rarely between 40 and 140, it’s usually between 68 and 72 °F.  I cannot imagine living in a house where it is 140 °F, can you? What kind of furnace would you need to have? 

Dead turkeys require a lot more fuss than I thought. Cats are quite comfortable and safe between 40 and 140 °F. Dogs? They’re pretty comfy between 40 and 80 °F. Anything hotter than that is hard on the tongue. Dead turkeys start to become lumpy biohazards at 40 °F. This is something you need to consider carefully unless you live in an igloo, own a HazMat suit, or plan on feeding it to your in-laws. I’m just kidding about your in-laws.

While cats and dogs can pretty much be kept wherever you have room for them, Turkeys? Not so much. If you’re thinking you’ll just throw your dead turkey in the trunk and forget it, don’t. I’m serious about this. Here’s what the USDA says, and I’m not making this up:

“Frozen turkeys should not be left on the back porch, in the car trunk, in the basement, or any place else where temperatures cannot be constantly monitored.”

So forget about keeping your frozen dead turkey on your back porch or tossing it in the basement. Apparently, government employees have done this and gotten sick or worse. Cats are comfortable in the basement or the back porch; dogs don’t care much for basements but do love back porches. But remember, never put your cat, dog, or dead turkey in the trunk of your car. I put that last sentence there for PETA members. I don’t like getting hate mail – it scares me.

Despite Ben Franklin’s colonial yearning to make the turkey the national bird, dead turkeys do not make good pets. Dead turkeys are usually edible though and quite good. If you decide to eat your dead gobbler you must understand that it can become a deadly bacterial time bomb.

In the interest of safety and in getting dead turkeys off your potential pets list and onto your table, here are some tips for you on how to thaw your dead frozen turkey so you won’t get sick. These tips are doubly important if you’re planning on serving your dead turkey to guests. Guests who become sick from eating your dead turkey may not only create a mess in your home, some will become litigious. If they do become litigious, you will become ill. So follow these guidelines that our beloved government has published – we pay them a lot of money to do things like this. I think it’s time we got our money’s worth, don’t you?

Here is what you’ve been holding your breath for all these years: actually seeing your tax dollars at work. And without further adieu, here are (some) of the USDA’s Dead Turkey Tips – just in time for your Thanksgiving dinner preparations:

Bless the USDA – Our tax dollars at work!

“Safe Methods for Thawing:

Immediately after grocery store checkout, take the frozen turkey home and store it in the freezer. Frozen turkeys should not be left on the back porch, in the car trunk, in the basement, or any place else where temperatures cannot be constantly monitored.

Refrigerator Thawing – When thawing a turkey in the refrigerator:

Plan ahead: allow approximately 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at 40 °F or below.

Place the turkey in a container to prevent the juices from dripping on other foods.

Refrigerator Thawing Times – Whole turkey:

* 4 to 12 pounds …… 1 to 3 days
* 12 to 16 pounds …… 3 to 4 days
* 16 to 20 pounds …… 4 to 5 days
* 20 to 24 pounds …… 5 to 6 days

A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days before cooking. Foods thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking but there may be some loss of quality.

Cold Water Thawing – Allow about 30 minutes per pound. First be sure the turkey is in a leak-proof plastic bag to prevent cross-contamination and to prevent the turkey from absorbing water, resulting in a watery product. Submerge the wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.

Cold Water Thawing Times

* 4 to 12 pounds …… 2 to 6 hours
* 12 to 16 pounds …… 6 to 8 hours
* 16 to 20 pounds …… 8 to 10 hours
* 20 to 24 pounds …… 10 to 12 hours

A turkey thawed by the cold water method should be cooked immediately. After cooking, meat from the turkey can be refrozen.

Microwave Thawing – Follow the microwave oven manufacturer’s instruction when defrosting a turkey. Plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving. Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present wouldn’t have been destroyed. A turkey thawed in the microwave must be cooked immediately….”

The Cold Water Method – Fun Family Time

I kind of like the cold water method the best. You have more flexibility since you can thaw and store it for a while as opposed to the Microwave method, which gives your dead turkey hot spots. I remember when I was a young man I used to have a lot of hot spots, but those – I assure you – were never caused by a microwave.

The cold water method can be the source of some really good, clean family fun. I’m sure many of you ladies with families are familiar with the cold water method. I’m sure many of you have recommended the cold water method to your husband when he has hot spots.

If you have small children and a really big dead turkey – let’s say a turkey that weighs 30 pounds or more — you and your family can have fun for up to 15 hours changing the dead turkey’s water. If the idea of changing the dead turkey’s water every 30 minutes does not sound like good, clean family fun to you, you could go to Ace Hardware – or Walmart — and buy a small pump to change the water for you.

If you have young children, you should probably buy a water pump. You don’t want to make small children lift a thirty-pound turkey. They could become seriously injured. Never let a small child lift anything heavier than 8 pounds – it could cause serious injury – which is another danger the USDA does not mention.

You’re probably wondering why I said 8 pounds. I’ll tell you why: because kids can lift a gallon of milk, which weighs about 8 pounds; I’ve seen them do it. So please if you have a really big turkey, help your kids change the turkey’s water. You will save them a lot of pain and help prevent back injuries and hernias.

The cold-water method can be a really good way of spending quality time with your children…but you must do it safely or otherwise it won’t be near as fun. Never let a small child lift a thirty-pound dead turkey out of the dead-turkey-cold-water-bath. If you have small, fragile children, consider spending $30 and buying a small pump. It may save you money on doctor bills later on. Plus you can use the pump again in the summertime to set up a really nice fountain in your front yard.

A fountain in your front yard – attractive and lucrative!

Putting a fountain in the front yard of your home not only adds to the beauty and resale value of your home, but it can also be an excellent source of revenue for your family in these financially difficult times — especially if you live in an affluent neighborhood. So if you want to earn extra money without doing hardly any work — and who doesn’t? — put a fountain in your front yard. Do it next spring once the ground has thawed. Use the dead-turkey-water pump you purchased last Thanksgiving to pump the water into and out of your fountain. Never make a water pump a “unitensil” – that is a utensil with only one purpose. 

Once your fountain is installed and working, you’ll need to make a sign for your fountain. This is the key to earning money for doing hardly anything. To construct the sign, I suggest you use a piece of plywood about 3 feet wide and 2 feet high. The sign needs to contain a lot of important information. You may change the wording (below) to suit you, but don’t leave off the legal disclaimer. If your plywood is ready to inscribe, then write the following on your sign — and please make it legible. You won’t make nearly as much money if people can’t read your sign.

Are you ready? Here we go. Write this on your sign:

“Welcome to our Magical Wishing Fountain: Please follow these simple instructions and your chances of having your wishes granted will be greatly increased. Simply toss a coin (no pennies please) into the fountain and make a wish. But remember, you only get one wish per coin. All wishes are granted on a first-come, first-served basis. The more coins you toss into our Magical Wishing Fountain, the better the chances of your wishes being granted.

We are not responsible for broken dreams or unfulfilled wishes. We are not responsible if you get what you wished for and it turns out to be a pile of crap. We make no guarantee, expressed or implied, that your wishes will be granted. You agree you understand that if your wishes don’t come true after tossing a coin or coins into our fountain, we are not liable for anything at all. You agree to hold us harmless.

WARNING! Tossing coins into this fountain may result in muscle strains, pulls, serious nerve damage, heart attacks, strokes, liver damage, appendicitis, dermatitis, or death. Falling into the fountain may result in serious injury, water damage, or death. Do not throw coins into the fountain while having seizures or fits. Do not throw coins into this fountain while intoxicated. If you’re on prescription medication check with your doctor before throwing coins into this fountain. Ask your doctor if you’re healthy enough to throw coins into a fountain.

You understand there will be no refunds and no rainchecks. Don’t even think about suing us. In the unlikely event your wishes are granted, you hold us harmless as wishes have often been known to turn into horrible nightmares.

By tossing coins into this fountain you acknowledge that you have read, understand, and agree to all the terms of our Magical Fountain’s safe-use policy and terms of use. You also agree that we are not responsible for anything. Nothing. You agree you are aware that you toss your coins and you take your chances. You also understand that you may well be literally throwing your money away, which is stupid. Thank you for stopping by. Thank you very much. Have a nice day! ”

I digress, as I am so often wont to do…

It’s also interesting to note that dogs and cats do not need their water changed every 30 minutes, which is another good reason they make better pets than dead turkeys. Additionally, dogs and cats do not normally require pumps.

WARNING! I’m not a veterinarian and therefore I am not qualified to offer medical advice for your pets. So if your pet needs a pump someday, don’t come back and tell me I’m full of crap.

But I am qualified and fully licensed, as a citizen of the United States, to copy and paste USDA information and disseminate it as I see fit.

Has anyone ever died from eating a dead turkey?

I now want to temper the information that I lifted from the USDA. I’d like to give you some good news to mitigate the terrifying information the USDA publishes about frozen turkeys and give you hope for your Thanksgiving get-together and feast.

The good news — and the truth — is that I’ve never known anyone who died from eating a dead turkey… and I’ll betcha you don’t either. Only once have I experienced people getting slightly ill from eating a dead turkey – and I am not sure if it was the dead turkey or aunt June’s candied marshmallow yams.  I’m an old codger, I’ve seen way too many Thanksgivings. Only once did I ever become ill or see anyone else get ill.  I can’t blame it on the dead turkey for sure – aunt June’s yams tasted awfully funny to me.

What does this mean? This means our tax dollars, once again, either must have saved a lot of people from an early grave – or that USDA’s ponderous pamphlet about the dangers of eating improperly handled frozen dead turkeys is just a bunch of government hogwash.

I am betting our grandparents used to leave turkeys laying around on the kitchen counter at room temperature for a couple of days before putting the birds in the oven. Of course, I have no actual proof of this, except some fond memories of many Thanksgivings with my grandparents. Luckily my grandparents lived in the northern part of the USA, where houseflies are pretty much gone by late November. So turkeys left lying around on the kitchen counter at room temperature often went unnoticed since were no flies to warn anyone of the moldering meat.

Wondering about house flies…

Now I’m wondering why we have no flies up here around the Great Lakes in November. I wonder if flies migrate like birds. Do those who live in warmer climes notice a huge influx of big, ugly flies from the North around Thanksgiving? I can’t recall if flies die, hibernate or migrate. I’ll have to look that up; it’s bothering me that I don’t know the answer.

Getting back to dead turkeys and Thanksgiving…

I have known lots of people who have gotten sleepy from eating dead turkey and ended up lying around all over my house, snoring wildly while the Detroit Lions lose another game to the Dallas Cowboys. I can’t remember who actually plays on Thanksgiving, but both Detroit and Dallas begin with “D” and so does “Dead”.

You’re probably reading this wondering when I might get to the point. Wonder no more.

The last things you need to do before you put your dead turkey into your oven are:

1. Chase the dog out of the kitchen – or put him in the basement. Dogs love turkey and you don’t want your dog messing with your bird. There is nothing worse than having a dog constantly after your bird.

2. Chase your cat out of the kitchen. Cats LOVE turkey and they’ll pester you until you give them a piece. Don’t. Put your cat in the garage until the turkey is safely in your oven. If you really love your cat and can’t stand to see it beg, turkeys have things called giblets. A giblet is an organ that humans don’t have and don’t want. Giblets are little sacks of slick, slimy multifunctional organs that do all kinds of mysterious things inside a living turkey’s body. 

A little bit of history

Here’s an interesting note. Back before Google, giblets were considered fit for human consumption. In fact, our ancestors used to eat them every Thanksgiving. But now all of them are dead and we now have a pretty good idea of what might have contributed to their untimely demise. Also interesting is that our ancestors often (and foolishly) made merry by drinking egg nog – a deadly concoction of rum, cream, and raw eggs. No doubt egg nog not only shortened the lives of our prickly forbears but probably flat-out killed many of them too. What in Heaven’s name was wrong with those people?

The Information Age

Lucky for us modern folk, we live in the Information Age, and we have information aplenty. Now it only takes a click to learn the horrible truth about giblets. Give them to your cat or dog. Do not eat them. A good rule of thumb for healthy eating is to be sure you know the actual functions of any organs you intend to eat.

3. Prepare the stuffing.

I’ll get into stuffing later.

Happy Thanksgiving!

6 thoughts on “Caring for a Dead Turkey 2021

  1. D.


    I was going to ask about ham, but I will put that on hold for now and probably for the future.

  2. Vicki Garrett

    Oh my, this is the funniest essay I’ve read in a long time! I used to love dead turkeys but since I’m an old lady, my tastes have changed somewhat. Now I’ll take dead turkey in a package sliced thin so that is one way to serve dead turkey either with or without 2 slices of a grain known as bread? Thanks TC for this amusing care of a dead turkey as well as how to prepare one!

  3. Betsy

    Thank you for the great essay. I really needed a good chuckle.
    BTW, I use giblets in my gravy.
    Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

    1. Maxine Hunt

      I use giblets also. And I love eggnog. I have lived 70 years on this planet eating giblets and drinking eggnog (lots of it!) and I still cannot wait until the holidays until I can purchase it.
      I cannot say the same for Google, which has caused plenty of problems and made plenty of people sick more-so than giblets and eggnog. I consider advice from Google with a large grain of salt, which is not good for you, either.
      I did love the article however, and laughed out loud several times. Thank you for the good advice about storing turkeys and thawing them before cooking.
      I also read recently that the government advises using a meat thermometer registering 165 degrees to determine when your turkey’s safely cooked. Some experts now have upgraded that advice to 175 degrees. I agree since some parts of a large turkey do not seem to be adequately cooked through at 165. Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Arlene Gnirk

    I really enjoyed this writing! It was so funny. My mother made a roasted chicken for Thanksgiving dinner and I love the giblets–heart and gizzard, that is. Happy Thanksgiving!


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