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Thanksgiving Recipes


A Full Guide On Cooking the Best Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes

A Full Guide On Cooking the Best Thanksgiving Turkey

Turkey is the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table. Whether you're looking for a recipe that brings back memories of an old fashioned Thanksgiving roast turkey or something with a little more kick, we've got the perfect turkey recipe for your Thanksgiving dinner. You'll love the tantalizingly delicious turkey recipes at the end of the turkey cooking guide.

Turkey at a holiday meal is always a favorite; the smell of a turkey roasting in the oven is a memory many have of the holidays. When you are the cook however, it can be downright anxiety-inducing!

You worry if you're buying the right kind of turkey (because who wants the dry kind?), you wonder if it should be fresh or if it matters? And how long should you freeze it (if at all) and how long does it take to defrost? It can make you want to order pizza!

The truth is, all it takes to cook a delicious turkey is a few simple steps. Follow these turkey guidelines then use any of the recipes below for added flavor.

How to Buy a Turkey

Fresh or Frozen?

You can buy a frozen turkey anytime, but make sure you have enough freezer space. Fresh turkeys are bought a day or two before you plan on cooking it.

Buy the size you need:

What Size Turkey to Purchase
Type of TurkeyPounds to Buy
Whole bird1 pound per person
Boneless breast of turkey1/2 pound per person
Breast of turkey3/4 pound per person
Prestuffed frozen turkey1 1/4 pounds per person – keep frozen until ready to cook

How to Thaw a Turkey

Thawing the turkey from frozen:

In the refrigerator – Place frozen turkey (still in the package) in the refrigerator. Allow approximately 24 hours per 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. You can store a thawed turkey in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.

Thawing Time in the Refrigerator
Size of TurkeyNumber of Days
4 to 12 pounds1 to 3 days
12 to 16 pounds3 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds5 to 6 days

Thawing in cold water:

If you forget to thaw the turkey or don't have room in the refrigerator for thawing you can easily thaw it in cold water instead. You can submerge the turkey in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes. Allow about 30 minutes of defrosting time per pound of turkey. The following times are suggested for thawing turkey in water. Cook immediately after thawing.

Thawing Time in Cold Water
Size of TurkeyHours to Defrost
4 to 12 pounds2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds10 to 12 hours

How to Prepare a Turkey

The week before the big meal:

Check your supplies, as you will need a roasting pan (large enough for your turkey) and a food thermometer. Do not stuff the turkey until you are ready to cook it. Give yourself ample time to check your supplies. Grocery stores tend to be especially busy in the last couple of days leading up to a holiday, and you'll want to avoid the chaos.

The day of the big meal:

If you choose to stuff your turkey, stuff loosely. The stuffing should be moist, not dry, since heat destroys bacteria more rapidly in a moist environment. Place a stuffed turkey in oven immediately.

Cooking times for turkeys are listed on the chart below and are for a fresh or thawed turkey in an oven at 325 °F. These times are approximate.

Timetables for Roasting a Whole Turkey
(325 degree F oven temperature)

Cooking Time Unstuffed
Size of TurkeyHours to Prepare
8 to 12 pounds2 3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds3 to 3 3/4 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
Cooking Time Stuffed
Size of TurkeyHours to Prepare
8 to 12 pounds3 to 3 1/2 hours
12 to 14 pounds3 1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
20 to 24 pounds4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours

Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey.

A whole turkey is safe cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F throughout the bird. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. All turkey meat, including any that remains pink, is safe to eat as soon as all parts reach at least 165 degrees F. The stuffing should reach 165 degrees F, whether cooked inside the bird or in a separate dish.

When turkey is removed from the oven, let it stand 20 minutes. Remove stuffing and carve turkey.

How Long Will Turkey Leftovers Last?

Most families who host Thanksgiving dinner end up having leftover turkey. Trying to find ways to use your leftover turkey can be a headache; part of that headache is figuring out how long your leftovers will last. Thankfully, we have the answers for you.

Make sure to put your turkey leftovers away as quickly as you can once everyone is done eating. Bacteria can develop more quickly than you might think. Never store turkey leftovers at room temperature; they will quickly go bad.

When stored in a fridge, turkey leftovers will keep for around three to four days. For families with a lot of leftovers, this may not be long enough for them to finish. If this is the case for you, freezing your leftover turkey is a better idea. Frozen turkey will keep for three to four months. Keep in mind that the flavor of the turkey will decline over time as it's kept frozen. Defrost it in the fridge if you can.

There are a lot of ways to use leftover turkey. Put it into a soup, make sandwiches out of it, or make a stew. You and your family might start getting sick of turkey after a few days, but present it in different ways and it will be easier to finish. Of course, you can always try to offload some on neighbors, friends, or family!

Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes

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