Thanksgiving turkey tips

Monday, November 25, 2019

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 two-three weeks before the holiday. Shopping early will ease the countdown tension for your Thanksgiving meal. Reading this and its already too late? Thats OK, 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 four-five 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 one-two days before the meals and keep it refrigerated.

How do you know when its 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. Its 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. Its important to store leftover turkey in shallow containers and put them in the refrigerator or freezer within two hours. Use cooked leftover turkey, stuffing and gravy within three-four days. Cooked turkey keeps for three-four 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: one tablespoon oil, cup chopped onion, one cup chopped celery, four cups chopped cooked turkey, two cans (15.5 oz.) drained Great Northern beans, two cans (11 oz.) undrained corn, one can (four oz.) chopped green chilies, four cups low-sodium turkey or chicken broth and one teaspoon ground cumin.

Directions: Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and celery, cook and stir for two-three minutes. Place all ingredients in a large saucepan (at least four 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, or contact the local Purdue Extension Office by calling 653-8411 for more information regarding this weeks 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.

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Upcoming Events:

Nov. 28-29 Extension Office closed for Thanksgiving holiday

Dec. 2 Putnam County Remove Invasive Plants Meeting, SWCD Office, noon

Dec. 6 2019 Crop Conference, Beef House, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., cost is $25

Dec. 16 ServSafe, Putnam County Hospital, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., register at

Dec. 16 Late-season PARP, Putnam County Fairgrounds, 6 p.m., cost is $10

Dec. 23 Extension Office closed at noon for winter holidays

Dec. 24-Jan. 1 Extension Office closed for winter holidays

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