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How to safely prepare your Turkey

Updated on November 11, 2015


To many, cooking the turkey for the holidays is a daunting task. But the biggest key to a moist, juicy and most importantly safe bird is time. With proper preparation and a little know-how, you too can easily master this center-piece to your holiday feast!

Time: Here is where most people make their biggest mistake. They wait until a day or two before Thanksgiving or Christmas to purchase their bird. Then it goes into the refrigerator to thaw. Frozen birds take up to 24 hours for every four pounds the bird weighs! That means if you're getting a 10 -12 pound bird you need 2- 3 days in the fridge to fully thaw. Whereas if you get a huge 30 pound bird we can be talking 5 days to thaw.

Do not panic! If you do wait until the last minute to pick up your Turkey, you can thaw them in cold water. Simply completely submerge the bird in water, leaving the wrapper on, a five gallon bucket works best. Change the water every hour to keep the water from getting too warm, preventing the chance of a food born illness. DO NOT USE WARM WATER, it will increase the risk of bacteria grown and will not thaw the bird uniformly. From frozen you can thaw a bird in six to twelve hours depending on the size.



Now that your Turkey has been fully thawed we move onto step two. This part is optional, but it will lead to a juicier and more flavorful end result. Brining is the process of soaking the meat or poultry in a salt water solution to infuse the meat with more moisture and flavor.

This process will take an additional 8-12 hours to do a whole, thawed Turkey. But even and hour or two of submerging the bird in the brine solution will go a long way in adding to the flavor as well as making the meat juicier.

Click here for an in-depth hub on how and why to brine your poultry, trust me it's worth the extra time and effort.



Finally the day has come! Let's pop that bird in the oven! Regardless of the choice you make, the key to a moist and fully cooked bird is time and temperature.

Temperature: Usually 325oF is a good starting temperature. Unless your instructions on the turkey say something different. This temperature will allow for even cooking without cooking too fast and leaving you with a raw bird near the bone.

Time: This greatly depends on the size of your turkey. A 10-15 pound bird will take 3-3.5 hours. A large bird 20-25 pounds will take 4-5 hours. The safest way to make sure your bird is fully cooked is by using a meat thermometer to take an internal temperature. You want 180oF in the thigh and 165oF in the breast.

There are several other methods of cooking your holiday Turkey. You can deep fry it, smoke it, or grill it. These methods are also delicious when prepared and require different times and temperatures.

All meat once the cooking process has finished should be allowed to rest. Just place the bird in the rack and tent with foil. This allows the juices time to redistribute and be reabsorbed back into the meat. So that when you cut and serve the meat will retain it's moistness and flavor instead of spilling out onto the cutting board and serving platter.


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