Talking Turkey

By Patrice Powers-Barker, OSU Extension, Lucas County
The Truth Contributor

Although many food prices, including turkey are higher in cost this year compared to one year ago, preparing a turkey can still be an economical way to plan a few different meals. It doesn’t matter if you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner or making meals for an ordinary week, turkey can be prepared and used in a variety of ways.

Thawing Frozen Turkey

The USDA shares three safe ways to thaw a frozen turkey: in the refrigerator, in a container of cold water, or in a microwave.

Thawing a turkey in the refrigerator takes one day for each four-to-five pounds of weight. If your turkey weighs 12 pounds, it can take three days to thaw. Once thawed, you should cook the turkey within two days to ensure food safety.

For faster thawing you can place the turkey in a large container or sink and submerge it in cold water. Keep the turkey in its original wrapping while it is being thawed. The turkey must be completely submerged, and the water should be replaced with fresh, cold water every 30 minutes. It will take about 30 minutes of defrosting per pound.

To thaw a turkey in the microwave, take it out of its packaging and place it in a microwave-safe dish. Use the microwave’s defrost function based on the turkey’s weight. Generally, allow six minutes per pound to thaw. Once the turkey has thawed, it should be cooked immediately.

Ways to Cook Turkey

The USDA categorizes different ways of cooking a turkey. Traditional Roasting and Oven Bag Roasting are listed as easy, Grilling and Smoking are listed as moderate and Fried Turkey and Spatchcocking are listed as advanced. Spatchcocking may also be known as butterflying and it’s when the backbone of the bird has been removed and it’s splayed out flat for cooking.

Roasting is the simplest and least expensive way to prepare a turkey. Make sure to remove the neck and giblets from inside of the turkey. You can stuff the turkey with fresh herbs like sage, rosemary, and parsley as well as a quartered onion and whole garlic cloves to give flavor to the bird. You can use olive oil and salt and pepper on the outside of the turkey before roasting. Set the oven to 325˚F. On average, it will take between 3 to 4 hours to roast a whole, 12–14-pound turkey.

165 Degrees

Let the thermometer tell you when the turkey is ready! Even if your bird has a “pop-up” temperature indicator, it is recommended that you also check the internal temperature of the turkey with a food thermometer.

A whole turkey should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. Depending on your preference, some may choose to cook turkey to a higher temperature.

For quality, let the turkey stand for 15 – 20 minutes before carving to allow juices to set. The turkey will carve more easily.

Food Safety for Left-Overs

Store cooked leftovers in the refrigerator and eat within 3-4 days or freeze them within 3-4 days. Label the freezer container with the name and date. In general, freeze casseroles for 2 to 4 months and soups and stews for 2 to 3 months.

Using Cooked Turkey in Other Recipes

Cooked turkey can be used in many different recipes! It can easily be used for cold turkey sandwiches or shredded and heated up for sandwiches. It can be used in casseroles and soups and turkey pot pie.

Turkey Cranberry Wrap Recipe from Celebrate Your Plate


1 large 8 inch whole-wheat tortilla wrap

2 tablespoons low-fat cream cheese

2 tablespoons dried cranberries

1/2 apple, cored and sliced 1/8 inch thick

2 ounces thinly sliced turkey

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

1/2 cup fresh baby spinach



Before you begin wash your hands, surfaces, utensils, fruits and vegetables.

Lay tortilla on clean surface.

Spread cream cheese over the tortilla. Top with dried cranberries and sliced apple.

Layer turkey on top of fillings. Sprinkle with chopped red onion. Top with spinach and any additional toppings.

Roll wrap tightly into a cylinder, beginning at the bottom and tucking in the sides as you go. Cut in half and serve.


Food Safety Questions?

If you have a question about meat, poultry, or egg products, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline toll free at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). The Hotline is open year-round Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET (English or Spanish). Send email questions to

The Hotline is open on Thanksgiving Day from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p. m., Eastern Time, but closed on other Federal government holidays.

If you are interested in watching a four minute video or checking out links to other resources,