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The countdown is over Thanksgiving is officially here. The Thanksgiving meal is the largest meal Americans prepare for each year with Turkey as the main attraction. Did you know? 46 million turkeys are eaten each Thanksgiving. In fact, 88% of Americans surveyed by the National Turkey Federation eat turkey on Thanksgiving. As Thanksgiving approaches, cooking the traditional turkey dinner gives rise to anxieties and questions:

  • What kind of turkey should I buy?
  • How do thaw a frozen turkey?
  • How do I store a turkey?
  • How do I cook a turkey?
  • No worries I am here to help. By following a few simple steps will not only ease your holiday fears, but will ensure a delicious and a safe meal for you, your family, and your friends.

    For proper food preparation, follow the following food safety steps:

    • Clean — Wash Hands and Surfaces Often.
    • Separate — Separate raw meats from other foods.
    • Cook — Cook to the right temperature.
    • Chill — Refrigerate food promptly.

    Selecting a Turkey

    Fresh or Frozen

    If you choose to buy a frozen bird you may do so at any time, but make sure you have adequate storage space in your freezer. If you buy a fresh turkey, be sure you purchase it only 1-2 days before cooking. Do not buy a pre-stuffed fresh turkey.

    What Size Turkey to Purchase

    Type of Turkey
    Whole bird
    Pounds to Buy
    1 pound per person
    Boneless breast of turkey1/2 pound per person
    Breast of turkey
    Pre-stuffed frozen turkey
    3/4 pound per person
    1/4 pounds per person-keep frozen until ready to cook

    Thawing a Turkey: Three Ways

    Another important step in the preparation process is thawing your turkey. There are three safe ways to thaw your turkey:

    1. Refrigerator: place your bird as originally wrapped on a shelf with a pan underneath it to catch any leaking juices. Allow approximately 24 hours for each four to five pounds of bird to thaw. After thawing, it's safe to store the turkey for up to two more days. This is the USDA's recommended method of thawing.

    2. Microwave Thawing: Follow the microwave oven manufacturer's instructions 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.

    3. Cold Water Method: Submerge the bird in its original packaging in cold tap water and change the water every 30 minutes. Allow about 30 minutes per pound of turkey to defrost. Cook immediately after thawing.

    Turkey SizeIn the Refrigerator (Approximately 24 hours for every 4-5 lbs.)In Cold Water (Approximately 30 minutes per lb.)
    4-12 pounds1-3 days2-6 hours
    12-16 pounds3-4 days6-8 hours
    16-20 pounds4-5 days8-10 hours
    20-24 pounds5-6 days10-12 hours

    For more information on turkey preparation visit the LSU AgCenter Website.



    LSU AgCenter Website

    Cooking a Turkey

    • Follow the four simple steps to food safety (Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill) to prevent the spread of many types of infection and illness.
    • Do not wash the turkey. This only spreads pathogens onto kitchen surfaces. The only way to kill
    • bacteria that causes foodborne illness is to fully cook the turkey.
    • Cook the turkey until it reaches 165 °F, as measured by a food. Check the turkey's temperature by inserting the thermometer in three places: the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh, and the innermost part of the wing.
    • Store food within 2 hours of cooking. Use leftover turkey and stuffing within 3-4 days or freeze these foods.
    • Store leftovers in shallow pans or containers to decrease cooling time. This prevents the food from spending to much time at unsafe temperatures (between 40 F to 140 F)

    Cooking Time - Unstuffed

    Size of TurkeyHours to Prepare
    8 to 12 pounds2 3/4 to 3 hours
    12 to 14 pounds3 to 3 1/4 hours
    14 to 18 pounds3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
    18 to 20 pounds4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
    20 to 24 pounds4 1/2 to 5 hours
    5/25/2021 2:32:01 PM
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