Culinary SOS: Russ Parsons’ turkey day tips

Q: How many pounds per person should one plan for turkey? I’m having 18.
--Barbara Corday, Los Feliz

A:It’s tricky trying to predict how much turkey to cook. There are so many variables: Are your guests big eaters? How many are children? Are there lots of side dishes? It’s usually safe to figure 1 pound of whole turkey per person. In your case, that means one average-sized 18-pounder or two very small 9- or 10-pounders.

Q: When you have a large group for Thanksgiving, say 20 to 22 people, which yields the most more breast meat: one 30-pound turkey, or two 15-pound turkeys?
--Barbara Mehlman, Los Angeles

A: This is one question I had never heard before, and, frankly, I was stumped. Is there a point at which the turkey continues to put on weight without increasing the size of the carcass? That’s what seems to happen with humans, but the Butterball Turkey Hotline says the breast accounts for about 27% of a turkey’s weight, regardless of size. So either choice will give you the same amount of white meat.

Q: I have a new stove with regular and optional convection oven. Is it preferable to roast turkey with both, uses or just the regular oven? And at what temperatures? Many thanks.
--Donna Perlmutter, Los Angeles

A: You’ll love that convection oven on Thanksgiving. It’s great for roasting, including turkey; a fan keeps the hot air moving, resulting in a very crisp, well-browned skin. Set it 25 degrees lower than a normal oven.

Q: Since I have 30 to 40 guests, I like to roast and carve my turkey the day before. The first year I did this it was moist and wonderful. The last two years, I’ve tried the same thing and the results were awful!
--Gwen Thompson, Thousand Oaks

I’d love to know what you did that first time, because I’ve never had reheated turkey that tasted as good as freshly cooked. If you have no other alternative but to reheat, roast the turkey to an internal temperature of 165 degrees (not the usual 180). Slice it while it is still hot, seal it tightly and put it immediately in the refrigerator. The next day, warm it in a 325-degree oven back to that 165-degree temperature with some turkey stock in the pan to help keep it moist. Allow 45 minutes to an hour to reheat.