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"recently changed jobs. Can I put my 401k from my previous employer into an IRA, without any kind of tax hit or penalty? "

Yes, and that is a very sensible thing to do. You have to notify the administrator of the 401k that this is what you wish to do.
Select your custodian. Tell them you want to transfer your 401k to a rollover IRA. If you are young it is more important to have a separate account--maybe someday you will want to transfer that money to a future employer's 401k. If you contaminate the rollover money with even $1 of contributory money, you lose that right.
The 401k administrator needs to know who your new custodian will be. You must have the money transferred directly to the new custodian. If they send you the check and make it out to YOU, they will deduct 20% tax and you have to make up that amount out of pocket to avoid having the 20% count as a premature distribution, with tax and penalties assessed. So do it right and there is no problem. The 401k administrator may send the check to you, made out to the new custodian, and that's fine; that way you know when the check was cut and you just send it on to the new custodian. You then give it time to arrive and call to invest your money.

If your new custodian is a mutual fund company, you will then invest in that company's mutual funds. If it is a discount broker, you can pick individual stocks or whatever other investments that broker may offer.
This is almost certainly better than having the old employer's administrator continue to invest for you, limited to the choices available through that plan.

Best wishes, Chris
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