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Safe Handling and Prep For Cooking Your Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving is coming up. And if like most of us, you've got the turkey, you're about to either cook or consume on your mind, we have some helpful hints, tips, and ideas to keep your food handling as safe as possible and help you also limit or repurpose those leftovers!

1.) Safe Methods For Thawing

Any time you're handling poultry, or any raw meat, caution is your friend. And when you're staring down a 10-12 (or more) pound bird, it can take some time and patience to thaw it correctly. Resist the urge to "speed thaw" and bring the turkey out of the freezer according to the times lined out below, which are based on the number of pounds you need to prep for the big day:

20-24 Pounds - need to be in the refrigerator by the Friday before Thanksgiving
16-20 Pounds - need to be in the refrigerator by the Saturday before Thanksgiving
12-16 Pounds - need to be in the refrigerator by the Sunday before Thanksgiving
4-12 Pounds - need to be in the refrigerator by the Monday before Thanksgiving

Safe thawing helps you not only bring your bird to temperature safely to avoid any possible problems but also keeps the bird in good shape when you bake it!

2. ) Safe Methods For Handling And Cooking

When you have a thawed turkey in the kitchen and begin to clean and prep it, there's going to be some mess. It's an unavoidable reality for anyone who has ever cooked the turkey on Thanksgiving or any time. There are "juices": water and blood mixtures, and also guts: gizzards, liver, heart, neck, etc. that will need to be either cooked or removed. But as you handle the turkey, it's practically impossible to not get something on the counter, the side of the sink, the trash can, or even the floor. Be sure you are cleaning up after with hot soapy water and some disinfectant.

Make sure whatever pan or roaster you use is cleaned thoroughly and after placing the turkey inside wipe off the outside and the counter around it. Dress your bird, and be sure to wash those hands for at least 20-30 seconds in warm water with soap. When baking any poultry, the inner core temp of the meat needs to read 165 degrees Fahrenheit to be sure you have killed off any possible contamination.

3.) Estimating How Much You Need & Safe Storage of Leftovers

Thanksgiving usually means cooking for a crowd, or at least more than normal. With that can come the concern of estimating, so you have enough but not too much! Below is a helpful line out of how many pounds of bird to how many people served!

8-12 pounds - 5-8 People
12-16 Pounds - 8-11 People
16-20 Pounds - 11-13 People
20-24 Pounds - 13-16 People
24-28 Pounds - 16-19 People

Children are a bit tricky to calculate for, but usually, the standard is 2:1 adult sized portion, until about Middle School, then all bets are off!

Safety in storing your leftover turkey is different for refrigeration or freezer. For the refrigerator, the standard is 3-4 days. If you opt to freeze your turkey leftovers, they can stand in the freezer for about 3-6 months on average. As before though, be sure you bring the meat back up to 165 before consuming.