Turkey Talk – How to prepare your Thanksgiving Turkey


Author – Margie Memmott

How to Prepare Your Thanksgiving Turkey

So, you have this frozen turkey, now what do you do with it? There are a few ways to safely thaw your turkey. Make sure to take enough time to completely thaw it.

Thawing time in the refrigerator (40° or below): approximately 24 hours per 5 pounds (whole turkey). After thawing keep turkey refrigerated only for 1-2 days.

Thawing time in cold water: approximately 30 minutes per pound (whole turkey). Change water every 30 minutes to maintain cold temperature. Cook immediately.

Thawing in the microwave: microwave thawing is safe if the turkey is not too large for the oven. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for the size turkey that will fit into your oven, the minutes per pound, and the power level for thawing. Cook immediately after thawing.

Roast the turkey, using the following instructions: Preheat oven temperature to no lower than 325 F. Place turkey breast-side up on a rack in shallow roasting pan. If you choose to stuff your turkey, fill the cavity loosely. Cook the turkey immediately. Use the following chart for the time to cook your turkey. The times are for thawed turkey in an oven at 325 °F. The times are approximate:

Pounds             Unstuffed          Stuffed

            8-12                 2 ¾ – 3 hrs       3 – 3 ½ hrs
            12-14               3 – 3 ¾ hrs       4 – 4 ¼ hrs
            14-18               3 ¾ – 4 ¼ hrs   4 ¼ – 4 ¾ hrs
            18-20               4 ¼ – 4 ½ hrs   4 ¼ – 4 ¾ hrs
            20-24               4 ½ – 5 hrs       4 ¾ – 5 ¼ hrs

Test the thickest part of the thigh with a meat thermometer to see that it reaches a minimum of 165°F. If you do not have a meat thermometer, make sure that the pop-up thermometer on the turkey has popped up.

Food Safety: Perishable foods, such as poultry, should not be out of the refrigerator more than 2 hours. Do NOT leave perishable foods out all day for “grazing.” Incidents of food borne illness increase during the Holiday season. Remember that young children, the elderly, and pregnant women are the most at-risk for food borne illness.

Wash hands, utensils, sink and anything else that has been in contact with the raw turkey with soap and warm water.

You can also sanitize utensils, sink, countertops, etc. with a chlorine bleach solution of 2 tbsp. per gallon of water.

Use leftover turkey in the following recipe shared by Darlene Christensen, USU Extension Agent in Tooele County:

Turkey tomato vegetable soup
quart turkey stock
1 quart stewed, unsalted tomatoes
½ cup barley
4 tsp. low-sodium chicken-flavored bouillon granules
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. dried oregano, crushed
1 tbsp. dried basil, crushed
2 cups diced cooked turkey
1 ½ cups sliced carrots
½ cups sliced celery
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 10-ounce package frozen okra (or frozen vegetable of your choice)

In a large saucepan, simmer stock, tomatoes, barley, bouillon granules, garlic powder, pepper, oregano, parsley and basil for 1 hour. Add turkey, carrots, celery, onions, green pepper, and okra. Simmer 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Makes about 16 cups.

Download our pamphlet – Preparing Your Holiday Turkey Safely by Darlene Christensen

For more information on food preparation and food safety, contact the Juab County Extension office at 623-3450 or visit extension.usu.edu/juab.

margie-memmottMargie Memmott has been serving families and communities for more than 20 years with USU Extension in Juab County. Margie earned degrees in family and consumer sciences from BYU and USU and loves to teach youth and adults valuable life skills. “What a great reward when others adopt these principles and apply the tools to improve their everyday lives.”  Margie and her husband Sam have four sons, three daughters-in-law and two grandsons. In her spare time she enjoys creative textiles/sewing, crocheting, music, technology, four wheeling in the ‘RZR’ and most of all, being with her family.

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