For most people, a turkey dinner is a traditional affair filled with warmth, delight, and good food. The delicious whole turkey carefully prepared is always the star of the show. Pair that with laughter and stories from family and friends for a cozy night to remember. So, you know that there will be a turkey on the table. However, with tons of options on the market, preparing the best one for the occasion may not be as easy as you think.
Purchasing a turkey, figuring out how to thaw it, and then knowing how long can a thawed turkey stay in the fridge are all important to know. And, you need a time-tested recipe for the best method of cooking.
Interestingly, the festive bird is not most people’s first meat option. There are several other options for any festive occasion, if turkey isn't your thing. If you decide to take on the challenge of roasting a turkey for the first time, you're in the right place! Read on for the best way to thaw a raw turkey, and prepare for your next holiday dinner. There are several things to know about the thawing process and cooking, if this is your first time to prepare a whole turkey.
Buying A Turkey
When purchasing a turkey, there are numerous factors to consider. These may include where to purchase, the turkey size to consider buying, and whether to purchase fresh or frozen. Here are the answers to all of your queries so you may shop with confidence and skill for your Christmas turkey:
Where To Buy A Turkey?
If you live in a metro area or have several grocery stores nearby, there should be many options on where you can buy a turkey. The best options are going to be per price, and take into account any promotions the store is running. You may be able to get a discount off your turkey.
Our stores usually have promotions on the store turkey brand. You may also ask your local butcher shop if they have stocks on hand or visit your local grocery stores, particularly their frozen sections. Or better yet, you may want to check out an online meat delivery shop for hassle-free turkey hunting. It would be best to grab one a few days before Christmas or turkey day for better quality and results. If you are having groceries delivered, allow plenty of time to get your order, and check shipping deadlines before holidays such as Thanksgiving Day.
How Big Of A Turkey Should You Buy?
This is one of the questions most people ask when buying a turkey. The size of the turkey you need may depend on how many people will eat it. It’s a rule of thumb to have one pound of turkey for every person, but if you want more for leftovers, it’s best to make it 1½ pound per head. Take into account, anyone who won't be eating turkey meat. If there are any friends or family who are vegan or vegetarian, or very small children, do not count them when calculating how much turkey you need.
It's important to choose the right size turkey. A large turkey such as a 20-pound turkey will take much longer to cook than a smaller one, such as a 12 to 15-pound bird. A pro tip is to find the smallest turkey that will feed all of the members of your dinner, and allow for as much leftovers as needed. You can then calculate cooking time based off the size of the turkey you purchase. If you have a turkey roaster, be sure to purchase a turkey that will fit in that easily for best results.
Should You Buy Or Frozen?
You usually see a frozen turkey in the freezer section of your favorite grocery store. Sometimes, they’re sold defrosted and labeled as ‘previously frozen.’ On the other hand, fresh turkey is what you might see in your local butcher shops, which has never been chilled. If this is what you’re aiming for, it’s best to buy them a day or two before Christmas.
In the United States and anywhere turkeys are shipped, chances are you will end up with a frozen turkey. Purchase with enough time to thoroughly thaw out in the refrigerator. To speed up the thawing time, a general rule is to take it out of the packaging prior to when you actually need to start prepping it to cook. You can allow it to remain in the original packaging for 1-2 days, however the turkey will keep a lot of its ice crystals on the innermost portions. Remove the outer packaging in a clean area such as the kitchen sink. Then, replace the turkey in a leak-proof plastic bag or large container to continue thawing in the refrigerator.
Do not under any circumstances allow a turkey to thaw on the counter top or at room temperature. The outer edges of meat will be at room temperature for too long, which is against food safety advice.
Storing A Turkey- How long can a thawed turkey stay in the fridge
When you buy a fresh turkey that is ready to use in a day or two, it’s best to store it on the bottom rack of your fridge. This will prevent its drippings from contaminating other foods below. Keep the turkey on a tray, baking pan or in a large container. Cover the top with plastic wrap or place the turkey into a bag to keep the breast side from drying out in the refrigerator as it thaw. Also, keeping it in the refrigerator instead of the freezer will save you a lot of time from defrosting it, which may take at least 24 hours to complete if you use an alternative method.
If you are wondering how long can a thawed turkey stay in the fridge, in general, poultry is good for only 1-2 days uncooked. This is after the turkey has been completely thawed. If you just got it out of the freezer, do not count it as day 1 of being completely thawed! The outer edges of the turkey will thaw before the entire bird.
Freezing Turkey for Later
If you were concerned about how long can a thawed turkey stay in the fridge and realized it needs to go back into the freezer, that's OK! Putting your turkey in the freezer is extremely important if you buy it a week or two weeks before Christmas. This way, you’ll be able to preserve its freshness and prevent it from spoiling. Also, ensure your freezer is set to -18C for optimal freezing and to inhibit the growth of any microorganisms. The turkey can remain frozen for long lengths of time, as long as you give the turkey a proper time frame to thaw before cooking.
Preparing A Turkey
When preparing your turkey before roasting, it’s essential to reduce the amount of handling it. After you unpack it, place it directly on the roasting pan and straight into the oven. In addition, it’s worth noting that you shouldn’t wash your turkey since it’s already been pre-cleaned. Washing it has been said to only spread the bacteria and other microorganisms through drippings and splashes.
Additionally, if your turkey is not oven-ready, you still don’t want to wash it. Instead, it would be best to pat it dry with a paper towel. Then, dispose of the towel as soon as you’re done to prevent microorganisms from spreading and further cross-contamination. Remove any bagged turkey organs, which are often packaged in the cavity of the turkey. Check the other cavity for the turkey neck, and remove if you are not planning to cook with the rest of the uncooked turkey. Then, you can remove any remaining ice crystals. A small amount of cold tap water works for this, but again– avoid overall rinsing to avoid splashing and contaminating other surfaces.
Once done, it’s time to wash your hands thoroughly before touching anything. Use an anti-bacterial hand soap and rub your hands, fingers, and the back of your palms for at least 20 seconds—or sing two ‘happy birthday’ songs. After that, all you need to do is check out the best roasted turkey recipe on the internet and start cooking.
There are a ton of Thanksgiving turkey recipes out there on the internet. If you find yourself coming up on the holiday and are worrying about finding a recipe before getting the turkey out of the fridge on Thanksgiving Morning, you can use this “family famous” recipe of ours. My grandmother finally shared her secret turkey and dressing recipes, so I was excited to share them with readers. You might be surprised at how easy these recipes come together! There is nothing difficult or expert level about it. Just roasted to perfection, and full of turkey flavor for the big day.
Thanks for reading our tips on turkey prep and how long can a thawed turkey stay in the fridge. A Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner will never be complete without a perfectly roasted turkey—the heart of a delightful and festive banquet. If you’re yet to buy one, you may refer to all the tips mentioned in this guide so you can grab the perfect turkey for your Christmas party. Also, check out the storing and preparation practices above so you can serve it to your guests the way it should be.
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