Due to COVID-19, many are choosing to celebrate Thanksgiving in smaller groups this year. That could mean a lot of people will be preparing a turkey and all the trimmings on their own for the first time.

In a news release from Londa Nwadike, Consumer Food Specialist at the University Of Missouri Extension:

“Don’t stress over preparing a Thanksgiving meal, but be sure to use safe practices and plan ahead so that no one gets foodborne illness at your holiday gathering.”

According to Nwadike, if you want to have leftovers after Thanksgiving, buy 1 pound of whole turkey per person. A rule of thumb is 3/4 pound of turkey per person if you don’t want leftovers or if you’re cooking a turkey breast.

A reminder that frozen turkey must be thawed in the refrigerator or in cold water, not on the kitchen counter. The safest way to defrost a turkey is in the refrigerator. Allow one day of thawing for every 5 pounds of turkey.

To thaw in cold water, completely submerge the wrapped turkey, changing the water every 30 minutes so the outer layer of turkey won’t get warm enough to support microbial growth. This method requires about 30 minutes of thawing for every pound of turkey. Be sure to clean and sanitize the sink after removing the turkey.

Something else to take into consideration is don’t rinse turkey and other meats before cooking. It will only spread those germs around the sink, which can cross-contaminate other foods. Any bacteria that might be rinsed off would be easily killed by cooking in the oven.”

Clean any surfaces that the raw turkey may have touched. As always, wash your hands thoroughly before and after preparing food. This can help to control COVID-19 as well as foodborne illness.

To cook the turkey, set the oven for 325 degrees. An 8-12 pound unstuffed turkey will take about 2 3/4 to three hours to cook. A stuffed turkey of the same size will take three to 3 1/2 hours.

So if you're cooking the bird this year...good luck!

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