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Person setting turkey down on a table full of Thanksgiving food

Your Guide to a Top Turkey

If you’ve been given the honors of supplying and preparing your holiday turkey, the pressure could be setting in. While your guests may request their favorite stuffing or pumpkin pie, pretty much everyone knows that a juicy turkey is the key to any proper Thanksgiving feast.

Eating turkey during the holidays is one of the oldest traditions to date, and this poultry offers lots of health benefits, too. Turkey is chock-full of protein and nutrients like selenium, phosphorus and B vitamins; plus, a 3-ounce serving only has around 250 calories (apart from deep-fried versions).

We’ve outlined all you need to know to ensure your bird is the star at your Thanksgiving meal:

When to Buy

If you’re purchasing a fresh bird (not frozen!), it’s best to buy just two days before your meal. If you bought a frozen turkey, keep it frozen up until thawing time. Frozen birds are safe to use indefinitely, but it’s best to use within a year.

When to Thaw

Thawing can take about 24 hours for every 5 ounces, so don’t rush this process. Another common way to defrost your turkey is by placing it in cool water, which takes around 30 minutes per pound. Either way, cook your turkey within two days of defrosting it. To ensure safety throughout the preparation process, make sure that anyone handling the raw turkey washes his or her hands throughout the process.

How Long to Cook

The USDA has a helpful chart to show how long to cook your turkey — on average count on two to four hours of roasting time at 325 degrees. Make sure you let the turkey rest at least 20 minutes after you cook it to allow the juices to soak in and for your turkey to get a safe serving temperature.

Time to Toss

Sick of leftovers already? First and foremost, don’t leave turkey out any longer than two hours. Then, once you’ve stored the turkey from your main meal, eat refrigerated leftovers within three days. If you freeze your cooked turkey, eat within six months.

Looking for more healthy eating tips? Read all of our nutrition advice and recipes here.

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