Fresh or Frozen Turkey: Get Ready for Thanksgiving
Perhaps the biggest holiday meal of the year is just around the corner. Thanksgiving brings families together from all across the state to share a meal that often centers on roast turkey and all the fixings. To help you prepare the holiday meal here are some helpful hints.
Whether you choose a fresh or frozen turkey is up to you. But for both fresh and frozen, allow one pound of turkey per person.
If the turkey is fresh, buy it only one to two days before you plan to cook it, and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to place it in the oven. Place a fresh turkey in a pan or on a tray on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator; the pan will catch any juices that may leak. Do not buy fresh pre-stuffed turkeys.
If your turkey is frozen, keep it frozen until you’re ready to thaw it. There are three ways to safely thaw your turkey: in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in a microwave oven. Plan ahead as thawing does that time.
Thawing your turkey
--Refrigerator (40°F or below): Keep the turkey in its original wrapper. Thaw in the refrigerator on a tray or in a pan to catch drips. Once it is completely thawed, the turkey may be stored in the refrigerator an additional 1 to 2 days before cooking. Allow 4-5 days to thaw an average 20-pound turkey in the refrigerator.
--In cold water: Make sure the turkey is securely wrapped so that water is not able to leak into the package. It’s usually best to keep the turkey wrapped in the original package. Completely submerge the turkey in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes as the water starts to warm. Turkeys thawed in this way should be cooked immediately after thawing. Do not refrigerate or refreeze.
Here are some thawing guidelines.
--Size of turkey: 4 to 12 pounds--thaw 1 to 3 days in the refrigerator or 2 to 6 hours in cold water;
12 to 16 pounds--3 to 4 days in the refrigerator or 6 to 8 hours in cold water;
16 to 20 pounds--4 to 5 days in the refrigerator or 8 to 10 hours in cold water;
20 to 24 pounds--5 to 6 days in the refrigerator or 10 to 12 hours in cold water.
--Thawing In the microwave oven: Check your owner’s manual for the size turkey that will fit in your microwave, the minutes per pound and the power level to use for thawing. Remove all outside wrapping and place on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that may leak. Cook your turkey immediately after thawing. Do not refreeze or refrigerate a turkey after microwave thawing.
Source: Barbara Ingham, UW-Extension Food Safety Specialist