Before you know it, Thanksgiving will be here. You decided to host Thanksgiving dinner this year, but you didn’t realize what an undertaking it was going to be. As you start planning for Thanksgiving dinner, you suddenly feel overwhelmed and stressed. Your head feels as though it’s about to explode, shooting colorful confetti all over the kitchen. Suddenly, you realize there’s nothing to stress over because you’re being proactive and you’re planning ahead.
Fresh or frozen turkey
The first step in planning a successful Thanksgiving dinner is deciding on what type of turkey you want to serve. Should you buy a fresh turkey or a frozen one? Although they’re both the same price, there’s a little more work involved when buying a frozen turkey.
The best thing about buying a frozen turkey is, you can buy it anytime, and store it in your freezer, just as long as there’s enough room for the air to circulate.
If you buy a fresh turkey, you’re a little more pressed for time. Once you bring that turkey home you’re going to need to cook it within 2 days. Please make sure you have enough space in your fridge for the air to circulate. You’ll want to store the turkey in its original packaging on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator on a plate. Make sure to keep it away from any ready-to-eat food.
Superhero hint: Never buy a turkey that’s already stuffed. When you buy it pre-stuffed there’s a greater chance of the bird being contaminated, as more people are handling it.
Size requirements – size does matter
A lot of people tend to buy the biggest turkey because who doesn’t love eating turkey leftovers for a week? Leftover turkey should be eaten within 4 days. Sure, it sounds good, but after day 2, more than likely you’re probably tired of turkey.
What happens then?
You throw it out. Well, isn’t that a waste?
The best thing would be is to determine the size of the turkey you need by the number of people who are coming to your thanksgiving dinner.
Superhero Tip: Most people eat side-dishes instead of turkey. It’s best to buy a bird that’s smaller in size than recommended.
What size turkey should you buy
- Whole turkey –1 pound per person
- Boneless breast – ½ pound per person
- Breast – ¾ pound per person
Defrosting your frozen turkey.
If you’re planning on buying a fresh turkey, just skip this part.
Defrosting in cold water
Defrosting a turkey in cold water isn’t the best advice, but if you didn’t have much room in your fridge you can use the cold water approach.
This one is extremely time consuming and requires you to keep an eye on the bird and not get side-tracked.
If you want to be stress-free while planning for thanksgiving, you’ll want to opt-out of the cold water defrost.
How to defrost in cold water
- Keep the turkey in its original packaging.
- Submerge in the kitchen sink in cold water for 30 minutes.
- Set an alarm and every 30 minutes you’ll want to drain that water and replace it with new cold water.
Typically, the time it takes to defrost a turkey is determined by the size.
- 4 to 12 pounds – defrost for 2 to 6 hours
- 12 to 16 pounds – defrost for 6 to 8 hours
- 16 to 20 pounds – defrost for 8 to 10 hours
- 20 to 24 pounds – defrost for 10 to 12 hours
- Anything larger than 24 pounds, add another 2 hours per pound.
How to defrost in the refrigerator
Defrosting your turkey in the refrigerator is the recommended way to do so. Always keep it in its original packaging and place it on the bottom shelf in your fridge. Be sure to keep it away from any ready-to-eat foods. Yes, I know. I’m sounding like a broken record.
Yep, I just dated myself.
As with a fresh turkey, the time it takes to defrost a turkey is also determined by size.
- 4 to 12 pounds – 1 to 3 days
- 12 to 16 pounds – 3 to 4 days
- 16 to 20 pounds – 4 to 5 days
- 20 to 24 pounds – 5 to 6 days
Now that you know how long it will take to defrost and cook your turkey, you’ll be able to plan for your thanksgiving dinner being stress-free.
But wait…there’s more.
Defrosting and cooking is just half the battle. You’re going to have to prepare for the meal as well, by making sure you have everything you need beforehand. To help you make your planning for thanksgiving dinner even easier, you’ll want to download your thanksgiving day prep guide. Click here to grab it, or just click the download button below.
How long should you cook your turkey?
The guide I’m about to supply you with should be an approximate, as each oven is different and you may live in a different elevation than me. Take that into consideration when roasting your turkey.
You’ll want to make sure the internal temperature of the turkey is 165°. Although some turkeys come with a pop-up thermometer, you’ll want to use another food thermometer to verify the accuracy of the popup.
Remember, the thermometer that comes with the turkey is typically placed in the breast meat. The breast meat can be thoroughly cooked; however, the drumsticks may need to cook longer. It’s always best to test the temperature of your turkey both the breast and the inner-most part of the thigh.
This cooking guide is based on your oven is set to 325°
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- 4 to 12 pounds – 2-¾ to 3 hours
- 12 to 14 pounds – 3 to 3-¾ hours
- 14 to 18 pounds – 3-¾ to 4-¼ hours
- 18 to 20 pounds – 4-¼ to 4-½ hours
- 20 to 24 pounds – 4-½ to 5 hours
- 4 to 12 pounds – 3 to 3-½ hours
- 12 to 14 pounds – 3-½ to 4 hours
- 14 to 18 pounds – 4 to 4-¼ hours
- 18 to 20 pounds – 4-¼ to 4-¾ hours
- 20 to 24 pounds – 4-¾ to 5-¼ hours
With all of this information, planning your Thanksgiving dinner will be a snap!
After reading the steps you’re going to need for planning your Thanksgiving dinner, do you feel you’ll be less stressed? Share in a comment.
Until we meet again,