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Thanksgiving Turkey: Part 1

Although we raise between 100,000 and 120,000 turkeys per year on our farm, we buy a turkey at the grocery store for Thanksgiving.  Our turkeys are too big to be Thanksgiving birds.  They are processed for ground turkey, lunch meat, and other tasty turkey options.
large farm
Thankfully, I’m not in charge of buying or cooking the Thanksgiving turkey, but in case YOU are, here are some tips for you (all info is from the Iowa Turkey Federation and/or Cook’s Country magazine.)

Buying a Turkey
It is best to plan on one pound of whole turkey per person, which will allow for some leftovers.
Fresh: A fresh turkey will keep for one to two days in the refrigerator, so only purchase it a day or two in advance. Store the turkey on a tray to catch any juices. DO NOT buy pre-stuffed fresh turkeys.
Frozen: A turkey may be stored in the freezer up to one year. Depending on the size of the turkey, begin thawing it up to five days in advance.

Thawing a Turkey
Thaw turkey in its original wrapper. It is best to thaw turkey in the refrigerator or in a cold water bath. NEVER thaw turkey at room temperature.
Refrigerator: Allow approximately one day for every four to five pounds of turkey. Make sure the refrigerator is set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cold Water: Allow approximately 30 minutes per one pound of turkey. Change the water every half hour.
Weight of Turkey
Refrigerator Thawing Time
Cold Water Thawing Time
8 to 12 pounds
2 to 2 1/2 days
4 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds
2 1/2 days to 4 days
6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds
4 to 5 days
8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds
5 to 6 days
10 to 12 hours
Example: Say you’re cooking a 12-pound turkey. The frozen bird should be placed in the refrigerator on Monday so that it’s defrosted and ready to cook on Thanksgiving Day.

Would you like to comment?

  1. Thank you for this post!! I am having Thanksgiving here and my husband's mom, sister and her fiancee are flying in! I am in charge of the bird!

  2. Great info! Alton Brown has a few fantastic Thanksgiving shows that talk about thawing the turkey, brining, roasting, deep-frying, etc. I'm not in charge of cooking the turkey either, but if I were I'd definitely watch these episodes.

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