Having family and friends over for Thanksgiving dinner? Planning on having turkey?  If you bought a frozen turkey, there are several things you need to know.

One of the most common Thanksgiving cooking errors is not fully thawing your frozen turkey. It's best to thaw your turkey in the refrigerator.

Here's a guide for how long you'll need for thawing time.  Turkeys should always be completely thawed before brining or cooking.

According to Butterball.com, there are two acceptable ways to thaw your turkey:

Refrigerator thawing:

Thaw the bird breast side up in its unopened package on a tray in your refrigerator and allow at least one day of thawing for every 4 pounds of turkey.  If you have a typical 12 pound turkey, it will take 3 days to thaw. If you're feeding a lot of people and you go for the 20-pounder, you need 5 days to thaw in the fridge.  There's a thawing calculator on the Butterball website and it will do the thinking for your.

A thawed turkey can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days before cooking, so it's better to get that bird thawing sooner than later.

If you forgot to thaw your turkey or just now found out you're hosting the big event and you're getting a late start, you can cold water thaw your turkey. I usually end up doing this when it gets to crunch time and my turkey hasn't fulled thawed in the refrigerator. It takes a lot less time overall to thaw in the cold water, but you have to really babysit your turkey.

Cold Water Thawing,

You'll want to thaw with the breast side down in an unopened wrapper. Cover the turkey completely with cold water. You'll need to change the water every 30 minutes to keep the turkey chilled. It will take about 30 minutes per pound to thaw using the cold water method. Remember that 20 pound turkey that took 5 days to thaw in the fridge, that same turkey will only take 10 hours to thaw using the cold water method.

The Butterball website has lots of great ideas for stuffing, marinating and brining and several frequently asked questions.

You can call the Butterball hotline with questions. 1-800-BUTTERBALL.

Now, what about the brine? When I brine, I usually do it in the refrigerator in a big pot and my turkey takes up half the space in the fridge. Ben gave me a great idea. Get a brining bag and put it in a cooler surrounded by ice and place the cooler in your garage.  Finally, he's given me advice I can use.

Karla Brown

Brining is something else you'll need to take extra time for. So, when you're figuring how long it will take to thaw your turkey, take into consideration it will take another day to brine the turkey.

According to the Butterball site, you should brine your turkey 45 to 60 minutes per pound. A 12 pound turkey could take as long as 12 hours to brine. Here are a few sites with recipes for brine. Just remember, it's very important to rinse your turkey after your brine it. You'll also want to pat it dry with paper towels.

Kikkoman soy sauce brine. Our weekend warrior, Angela Todd, told me about a brine using Kikkoman soy sauce. It's the brine she uses and said it makes the turkey really moist.

Pioneer Woman brine. Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman on Food Network, is one of my favorite hosts. This is the brine recently featured on her show.

Basic brine. This is a basic brine for any poultry. It doesn't use anything super fancy and it will help make your turkey more moist.

Martha Stewart's brine recipe. This one looks a bit more complicated, but if you want to try something fancy and different, this might be the brine. It will be very aromatic and one of the ingredients is wine.  (One glass for you, one glass for the brine - one glass for you, one glass for the brine).

All Recipes Brine. This brine uses vegetable broth, which will also help flavor your gravy. It has 5 out of 5 stars on All Recipes.com.

Here are some other links that will help you have the best Thanksgiving ever.


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