Although turkey is the star of Thanksgiving tables across the United States, we do not lead the world in per person consumption. That title goes to Israel, with more than 34 pounds per capita, according to Marc Silver writing in the current issue of National Geographic magazine.
"In a country where red meat is expensive and pork is not kosher, turkeys provide a lot of meat that can be served a lot of ways," he writes, including as schnitzel, kebabs and even faux lamb chops. Ironically, the birds were first brought over to Israel from the United States back in the `50s.
Some other fun facts from the article:
_The U.S. raises 272 million turkeys a year.
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_Hens are the usual holiday birds, harvested at about 15 pounds, while toms hit 40 pounds and look forward to a destiny as deli meat.
_Turkeys are so big they must be artificially inseminated.
_And if that isn't insult enough, Silver ends by addressing the turkey's IQ, which is nearly as non-existent as its sex life. As Silver quotes Israeli poultry geneticist Gaddi Zeitlin: "It's a very stupid animal."
TOP TURKEY EATERS
Pounds per capita, 2005
1. Israel: 34.6
2. Slovakia: 31.3
3. United States: 16.1
4. France: 13.7
5. Hungary: 12.8
6. Grenada: 12.1
7. Dominica: 11.2
7. Ireland: 11.2
7. Samoa: 11.2
NOTE: HOURS ARE ALL CENTRAL STANDARD TIME
HOT LINE TO HOLIDAY HELP
Grappling with a recalcitrant turkey? Cranky cranberries? Persnickety pies? Hot lines and Web sites offer answers to cooking and food-safety questions during the holidays.
Here are a few:
_Butterball Turkey Talk-Line: 800-288-8372 or butterball.com. Home economists and nutritionists answer questions in English and Spanish. Hours are 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Wed.-Fri.; 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat.-Sun.; 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Nov. 21; 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day; 8 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays Nov. 23-Dec. 21. Check Web site for Christmas hours; automated assistance is available after hours. Butterball has added TurkeyTalk, a series of episodes on turkey know-how, preparation advice, stories from the Talk-Line and more. For a schedule, click on "Holiday Guide" on the Web site.
_Crisco Pie Hotline: 877-367-7438 or crisco.com. Baking experts answer questions about piemaking 7 a.m.-7 p.m. weekdays through Dec. 21; closed Thanksgiving and Dec. 24-25. Recorded information is available 24 hours daily.
_King Arthur Flour Co. Bakers Hotline: 802-649-3717. Baking experts answer questions 7 a.m.-8 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Sat.-Sun. through December. Exceptions: 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 23 and 31; closed Thanksgiving Day, Dec. 24-25 and Jan. 1. You also can e-mail questions to email@example.com or visit online, kingarthurflour.com.
_Ocean Spray consumer help line 800-662-3263 or www.oceanspray.com. Consumer department fields questions on cranberries from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays, including Thanksgiving Day.
_Perdue consumer help line: 800-473-7383 or perdue.com. Representatives answer cooking, storage and other questions about poultry products. Regular hours: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays. Holiday hours: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Tues.; 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Nov. 21; 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. Closed Nov. 23 and Christmas Day.
_Reynolds Turkey Tips Hotline, 800-745-4000 or reynoldskitchens.com. A year-round 24-hour automated hot line offers advice on turkey preparation.
_U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline: 888-674-6854 or www.fsis.usda.gov. Food-safety specialists answer calls about meat and poultry preparation and cooking questions, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays year-round_except Thanksgiving Day, when hours are 7 a.m.-1 p.m. The Web site has a 24-hour automated response system; recorded information is available 24 hours a day.
You can thaw the holiday bird in the refrigerator if you have time, or speed things up by submerging it in cold water that you change every 30 minutes, according to the USDA. Do not thaw the turkey on the counter at room temperature. If thawing in the refrigerator, place the turkey on a tray or pan to contain any liquid that may drip.
In the refrigerator (about 24 hours per 4 pounds)
8 to 12 pounds: 2 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
In cold water (about 30 minutes per pound)
8 to 12 pounds: 4 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
Because today's standard turkey is younger and more tender than in the past, it cooks more quickly. Use these up-to-date USDA recommended times instead of those found in older cookbooks and references. Cook at 325 degrees. A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees as measured with a food thermometer, according to the USDA. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. If cooking stuffing inside the bird, make sure the center of the stuffing reaches 165 degrees. Even if your turkey has a "pop-up" temperature indicator, the USDA recommends checking the internal temperature with a food thermometer.
8 to 12 pounds; 2 ¾ to 3 hours; 3 to 3 ½ hours
12 to 14 pounds; 3 to 3 ¾ hours; 3 ½ to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds; 3 ¾ to 4 ¼ hours; 4 to 4 ¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds; 4 ¼ to 4 ½ hours; 4 ¼ to 4 ¾ hours
20 to 24 pounds; 4 ½ to 5 hours; 4 ¾ to 5 ¼ hours