Thanksgiving: What you need to know before the big meal

Published On: Nov 18 2013 04:14:50 PM EST   Updated On: Nov 18 2013 04:03:00 PM EST

Buying: Cooking for a crowd can be challenging, especially figuring out how big of a turkey to buy that will feed all of your guests! Don't guess; use this guide and remember to factor in extra servings if you'd like to have leftovers.

If you're buying, calculate this much per serving
A whole turkey1 pound (1 1/2 pounds for extra leftovers)
A bone-in turkey breast3/4 pound
A boneless turkey breast½ pound

If you choose to buy a frozen turkey you can do so at any time in advance, as long as you have space in your freezer to store it. If you choose to buy a fresh turkey, purchase it 1 or 2 days before cooking.

Plan time for thawing: There are three ways to safely thaw a turkey. Never defrost a turkey by leaving it out on the counter.

  1. Refrigerator: The best way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator. Allow approximately 1 day of thawing time for every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey (for example, a 25 pound turkey will take 5 days to thaw in the refrigerator).
  2. Cold water: To thaw a turkey more quickly, submerge it in cold water while it’s in its airtight packaging or a leak-proof bag. Change the water every half hour, and cook the turkey immediately after it thaws. Allow approximately a half hour of thawing time per pound of turkey.
  3. Microwave: If you thaw a turkey in the microwave, cook it immediately after it thaws.

What can I make ahead?

  1. Mashed potatoes, Sweet potato casserole, Green bean casserole (these can easily be reheated in the microwave, toaster or conventional oven)
  2. Cranberry relish, salads (add sliced tomatoes just before serving)
  3. Appetizers: Sweet potato bruschetta, appetizer relishes, veggie, or cheese trays
  4. Soups (these can easily be warmed on the stovetop)
  5. Desserts: cakes, pies, cheesecake, topping ingredients (such as spiced nuts), pumpkin mousse

Click here to view recipes.

Read next: Thanksgiving: The Big Day


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