Buying And Thawing A Turkey

Want some tips on how to pick out and thaw a turkey? We’ve got helpful hints for getting your meal off to a great start.

Juicy Thanksgiving Turkey

Photo by jmouseb

Don’t be stuck with a turkey that is too small for your gathering or still frozen the morning of your feast!

Use these guidelines to avoid those mistakes:

How to Buy a Turkey

Things to think about:

  • Size. Count on 1 to 1 ½ pounds of turkey for each guest, depending on whether you want plenty of leftovers or just a few. You can also choose to buy two medium-sized turkeys rather than one giant one, to cut the cooking time. This also allows you to cut one turkey for serving while the whole bird is displayed on the table.
  • Fresh or Frozen? This depends on your needs. A fresh turkey costs more but doesn’t need thawing. Some butchers also offer “heritage” breeds of turkey. (You should buy it no more than one or two days ahead of time–it’s best to order in advance from your butcher or grocery store meat department). Frozen turkeys are less expensive and available year-round, but must be thawed before cooking.

How to Thaw a Turkey

There are two safe methods for thawing a turkey:

  • In the refrigerator. This is the preferred method, but can be difficult to arrange with a fully stocked fridge. Clear some space and allow one day for every 5 pounds of meat: a 15-pound turkey will require three days to thaw thoroughly.
  • Submerged in cold water. Using your sink or a bucket, keep the turkey in its original wrapper and make sure it is completely covered with cold water. You may need to cover the turkey with a plate and place some heavy cans on top of it to keep it totally submerged. It is vital for the sake of safety that you change the cold water every 30 minutes. Using this method, it will take approximately 30 minutes per pound to thaw a turkey.

It is also possible to use a combination of the two methods–use the fridge for the first two days of thawing, and the sink on the day before Thanksgiving, when the refrigerator fills up with other holiday dishes.

Ready to cook your turkey?  Read: How To Cook A Turkey to see your options for cooking your bird.

Having a last minute Thanksgiving nightmare? Read answers to the most frequently asked Thanksgiving cooking questions.