How to Select the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey
Posted on October 24, 2014
Ever had a Thanksgiving dinner that started at 9 p.m.? I have. The late chow time was due to inexperience and a completely frozen turkey. Luckily, my past mistakes are now the catalyst for an informative and insightful post on how to select (and thaw) the perfect Thanksgiving Turkey. Use this guide and get it done right, the first time.
Sizing the Turkey
Have enough for everyone and some leftovers too by choosing a turkey that is just the right size. Start by estimating how many people you have to feed and use the below chart to calculate how big of a bird you need.
|Type of Turkey||Pounds to Buy|
|Whole Turkey||1 Pound per Person|
|Boneless Turkey Breast||1/2 Pound per Person|
|Turkey Breast (Bone-In)||3/4 Pound per Person|
|Frozen, Pre-Stuffed Turkey||1 1/4 Pound per Person|
Fresh VS. Frozen Turkey
Rarely does a turkey come all thawed out and ready to go. If you are lucky enough to purchase a fresh – not frozen – turkey, make sure you’re making your purchase no more than 2 days before it is cooked. You’ll also want to double check the available storage space in your fridge. Turkeys take up A LOT of space.
But if you’re like the majority of us, you’ll be selecting your vacuum-sealed frozen poultry from a supermarket of choice – and that bird is gonna take some time to thaw. Plan on picking up the turkey at least six days, particularly if you are buying a bird over 20 pounds.
Thawing a Frozen Turkey
For those who decide to purchase a frozen turkey, the bird can be thawed in either the refrigerator or in cold water.
Thawing a Turkey in the Refrigerator
The safest method to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator. This is because all areas of the bird are kept cold enough (below 40°F) to prevent bacterial growth. However, thawing in the refrigerator takes a long time. Use the table below to estimate how long it will take your turkey to thaw in the fridge.
|Turkey Size||Number of Days to Defrost|
|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|
Thawing a Turkey in Cold Water
Thawing a turkey in cold water is the fastest method, but it is potentially the most hazardous if not done right. To keep bacteria from growing, you’ll need to change the cold water every 30 minutes. Failure to change the water every half hour can result in allowing some parts of the turkey to become warm enough for bacterial growth. Prepare and cook the turkey once it has thawed in the water. Below is a table that tells how long it should take for a turkey to thaw in cold water:
|Turkey Size||Number of Hours to Defrost|
|4 to 12 Pounds||2 to 6 Hours|
|12 to 16 Pounds||6 to 8 Hours|
|16 to 20 Pounds||8 to 10 Hours|
|20 to 24 Pounds||10 to 12 Hours|
Once you have the right Thanksgiving turkey selected and your thawing planned out, it’s time to get cracking on the rest of the feast! Having all the right tools will go a long way. Check out FSW’s affordable kitchen and dining supplies and get everything you need for Thanksgiving this year.