Thanksgiving Turkey Tips

As Thanksgiving approaches, planning and preparing for the holiday dinner can result in anxiety and questions. What kind of turkey should I buy? Should I buy a frozen or fresh turkey? How do I store my turkey? A few simple steps will ease holiday fears and ensure a delicious and a safe meal for family and friends. The following tips from Nebraska Extension may help you prepare a successful and safe holiday meal.

Plan Ahead. Cut down on the holiday anxiety and stress by planning ahead. Plan the menu 2-3 weeks before the holiday. Shopping early will ease the countdown tension for your Thanksgiving meal. Reading this and it’s already too late? That’s okay, practice this around the next holiday!

Fresh or Frozen? There is no difference in quality between a fresh or frozen turkey. You can buy a frozen turkey in advance and take advantage of special sales. Fresh turkeys provide convenience because they have shorter shelf lives. Before buying, make sure there is enough space in the refrigerator or freezer.

When to buy the bird? A whole frozen turkey takes about 24 hours per 4-5 pounds to thaw in the refrigerator. Purchase a frozen turkey as far in advance as necessary to safety thaw it in the refrigerator. If buying fresh, purchase it only 1-2 days before the meals and keep it refrigerated.

How do you know when it’s done? A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees, as measured with a food thermometer. Insert a food thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching bone to measure the temperature.

Carving and food safety. It’s best to let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before carving to allow juices to set, and it will carve easier. Use a clean cutting board that has a well to catch juices. Remove stuffing from the turkey cavity. Make sure the knife is sharp before you start carving.

Storing your Thanksgiving leftovers. It’s important to store leftover turkey in shallow containers and put them in the refrigerator or freezer within 2 hours. Use cooked leftover turkey, stuffing and gravy within 3-4 days. Cooked turkey keeps for 3-4 months in the freezer. Reheat leftovers thoroughly to 165 degrees and bring gravy to a boil before serving.

Who you gonna call? The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline can answer food safety questions on weekdays year-round. This toll-free service provides answers to questions about the safe storage, handling, and preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products. Call the hotline at: 1-888-674-6854 or send an email to:

What can I do with the leftovers? Make White Turkey Chili

Ingredients: 1 T. oil, ¼ c. chopped onion, 1 c. chopped celery, 4 c. chopped cooked turkey, 2 cans (15.5 oz.) drained Great Northern beans, 2 cans (11 oz.) undrained corn, 1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies, 4 c. low-sodium turkey or chicken broth, 1 t. ground cumin.

Directions: Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and celery, cook and stir for 2-3 minutes. Place all ingredients in a large saucepan (at least 4 quarts). Add additional vegetables as desired. Stir well. Cover and cook about 15 minutes over medium heat stirring occasionally until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top, if desired.

Visit our homepage at<> or you can contact the local Purdue Extension Office by calling 765.653.8411 for more information regarding this week’s column topic or to RSVP for upcoming events. It is always best to call first to assure items are ready when you arrive and to RSVP for programs. While many publications are free, some do have a fee. Purdue University is an equal access/equal opportunity institution. All times listed are Eastern Time.

Upcoming Events:

November 28-29 – Extension Office Closed for Thanksgiving Holiday

December 2 – Putnam County Remove Invasive Plants Meeting, SWCD Office, 12-noon

December 6 – 2019 Crop Conference, Beef House, 9-2, Cost $25

December 16 – ServSafe, Putnam County Hospital, 9-3, register at

December 16 – Late Season PARP, Putnam Co. Fairgrounds, 6:00 pm, Cost $10

December 23 – Extension Office Closed at 12-noon for Winter Holiday

December 24-Janruary 1 – Extension Office Closed for Winter Holiday

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,