Turkey tips from Purdue

Published: .
Updated: .



When it comes to selecting and cooking turkeys, there are basic concerns that come up each year. Julie Gray, RD, CD, of the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service offers the following advice for a picture-perfect Thanksgiving meal.


  • Purchase one pound of turkey per person being served. This will allow enough for leftovers, too.
  • Store fresh turkey in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days before cooking. A frozen turkey may be kept in the freezer for up to one year.
  • Thaw frozen turkeys in the refrigerator, never on the counter. REMEMBER to allow one day of thawing for every five pounds of turkey. (A 20-pound turkey will take at least 4 days to thaw.)
  • In a hurry? Thaw the turkey in a clean sink or bathtub. Submerge the bird with cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes to keep the turkey cool.  Allow 6 to 9 hours for a 12- to 16-pound turkey, 9 to 11 hours for a 16-to 20-pound bird. Cook immediately.  Thawing the turkey in the microwave oven is not recommended for many reasons including: the turkey may not fit in the microwave; microwave ovens thaw unevenly; microwave ovens vary greatly in power and there are not reliable thawing times.
  • If you choose to stuff your turkey, stuff loosely. The stuffing should be moist, not dry, since heat destroys bacteria more rapidly in a moist environment. Place stuffed turkey in oven immediately. You may also cook the stuffing outside the bird in a casserole. The stuffing should reach 165 °F, whether cooked inside the bird or in a separate dish.