Time to prepare for Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is less than a week away.  It is time to get the Turkey and determine when to thaw it.  Frozen Turkeys are just fine.  I know every TV chef in the country says to buy a fresh Turkey, I have prepared one fresh and one thawed Turkey side by side and my guests could not tell the difference.  Here are a few tips for picking out a turkey and getting ready for Thanksgiving.

Turkey 2014

Choose your turkey wisely…

Choose a turkey based on the number of guests. Average is about 1lb per person. Sounds like a lot, but remember a turkey contains bones and fat. It will roughly give you about 6-8oz serving per person. When the number of guests reaches over 12, I would rather cook two smaller birds than a giant 20lb bird. The smaller birds cook quicker, more evenly and some would say (AKA me) taste better.

Check your local supermarket and sign up for a rewards card. They always offer a bird for less than $0.75 a pound. I paid $0.39 a pound at food lion. This can sometimes mean that you can get a 10 lb bird for less than a 4 lb turkey breast. Thanksgiving leftovers are awesome so this might be something to think about.

Make sure your bird will fit into your oven and/or roasting pan. Sometimes large birds look good in the store, but when you get home it won’t fit into the fridge, oven and/or roasting pan. Go to the store with a plan.

Thaw the Bird

Allow the turkey to thaw for 3-4 hours per pound. So if you have a 16lb turkey give yourself about 48 – 64 hours to let it thaw. So if you pick up a 16lb bird you will need to start thawing it Tuesday at the latest.

If you are reading this on the Wednesday before or even on Thanksgiving, I have a solution for you.

How to Cook a Frozen Turkey

If you forget you can totally cook your turkey frozen.  So don’t worry.   The step by step instructions are here.  This is a super easy method and the bird comes out great.  You can’t infuse it with crazy flavors, but if you like roasted turkey this is the way to go.

How to Cook a Frozen Turkey

Make sure to be safe

Once a Turkey is thawed bacteria starts to grow.  Therefore, you need to handle the Turkey safely.

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Flicker | @TheAdCouncil

Brine the Turkey

You have time so why not brine.  That is my motto.  Even though Thanksgiving is only a few days away you have plenty of time to brine the bird. Check out my post on how to brine a turkey for instructions. Plus, If you find yourself with a frozen bird. Add it to a brine and thaw it in the fridge to do double duty and increase the speed of thaw.  Brining will enhance the moistness of the bird and can really enhance the flavor.

Double Check the Temperature

Use a probe thermometer. Sounds fancy but it takes the guess work out of cooking. Want to know how people get perfectly juicy birds, it is based on temperature not time. Place the probe into the breast meat, making sure not to touch the bone. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Remove the bird from the oven, tent in aluminum foil and let rest for 20-30 minutes.

Flickr | @TheAdCouncil

Flickr | @TheAdCouncil

If you do not have a probe thermometer, cook the bird for 14 minutes a pound and then check the temperature in the breast with a meat thermometer. They are available at almost all supermarkets.  If it is under 160, cook for another 10 minutes and check again.  Repeat until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

If you are looking for a good thermometer.  Try checking out Thermoworks.

The Super-fast Thermapen is a professional instrument that can read the temperature accurately in 1-2 seconds.  While this costs a bit $96 it is totally worth it.

The ThermoPop is their newest thermometer that is just as awesome as the Thermapen but with a tad bit slower response, 5-6 seconds.  This is way faster than the grocery store thermometers and way more accurate.  Plus they are only $29.  A steal if you ask me.

Don’t use the pop-up thermometer.

Pop-up thermometers are set to spring at 175 degrees. At that temperature the breast is already too dry. Plus remember that once it pops you need to let the bird rest. Yep, that turkey is gonna be 180+ degrees by the time it is served. Definitely not good.

The approximate time till eating is roughly 19 minutes a pound. Includes resting time.

Don’t forget about leftovers!


Leftovers need to be chilled within 2 hours of removing them from the oven.  So make sure you have dishes and space in the fridge set aside.

Flickr | @TheAdCouncil

Flickr | @TheAdCouncil

Hope these tips help.


About Author


Rex is an avid griller, barbecuer and bacon enthusiast. He is the Pitmaster for the Rex BBQ competition team. Rex was also featured on the TV show American Grilled. If you have any questions or wish to have Rex decode your favorite dish, click on the ASK REX link in the menu above.

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