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You might be cutting it to the last minute, but if you haven't yet started preparing that bird, that Americans apparently only knows exists one day out of the year, it's not too late to have that perfect turkey.

Hopefully, you've already started defrosting your turkey, USDA Food Safety Expert Meredith Carothers recommends you defrost it in the refrigerator.  You should never leave it out on the counter to defrost.

“Refrigerator is the safest way to thaw your turkey and we say it takes about 24 hours for every four to five pounds. So if you have a 20-pound turkey, you want to give yourself four to five days in order for that to get fully thawed.”



The traditional way to cook a turkey is in the oven but many Louisianans prefer to cook it in a deep fryer. Carothers urges Louisianans to make sure the turkey is fully thawed before it goes in a deep-fryer. 

When a frozen turkey or those ice crystals come in contact with hot oil it rapidly creates steam that can cause that oil to bubble over.” 

Did you know the USDA doesn’t recommend stuffing a turkey? That's due to the increased risk of cross-contamination. A stuffed turkey also takes longer to cook. 

But if you decide to stuff your turkey, Carothers suggests placing the turkey in the oven right away especially when using hot stuffing. 

“Because the warm stuffing can cause bacteria that are inside that turkey cavity to start to multiply and certain bacteria they multiply to dangerous levels can produce toxins that are heat resistant and won’t be killed by the cooking process.” 

Americans will cook more than 46 million turkeys this Thanksgiving, according to the USDA.

If you have any food safety questions you can call the USDA hotline weekdays from 10 am to 6 pm and on Thanksgiving Day from 8 am until 2 pm at 1-888-674-6854 or chat live at ask-dot-usda-dot-gov. 


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