Thanksgiving, besides maybe Christmas, is one of the most stressful times of the year–and that’s not just because all of your family’s in one house. Cooking can only increase the stress during these holidays, so for Thanksgiving, check out the tips from the experts:

Thawing the Bird

Many people buy frozen turkeys. It’s important to know that frozen turkeys need plenty of time to thaw. The best place to thaw your frozen turkey is in the refrigerator. Here’s some important refrigerator thawing guidelines:

  • For every 3-4 lbs. turkey, you need to thaw for 6-7 days, so count on buying your turkey at least a week in advance to allow enough time.
  • Don’t have a week? There is a way to thaw your turkey faster with the cold water method: Submerge the bird in cold water and be sure to change the water every 30 minutes to keep surface of turkey cold. You’ll need to allow 30 minutes of thaw time for every pound of turkey.

If you have a smaller gathering and don’t need a full bird, consider purchasing a turkey breast.

Thawing guidelines are as follows:

  • Refrigerator thaw: For turkey breast, you need to thaw it in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.
  • Cold water thaw: For turkey breast, you need to thaw in cold water for 4-8 hours.

*Hint: Keep bird in its original packaging throughout the thawing process!

One Day Before the Meal

Prepare Your Dry Ingredients for Stuffing: Combine the dry ingredients for your stuffing the day before cooking it. Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl or a plastic bag.

Roast Your Turkey: Many people like to roast their turkey the day before the big day. If you fall into this category, here’s what you need to do to endure a perfect bird:

  • Add the remaining ingredients to your stuffing and stuff the bird.
  • Remove stuffing to a casserole dish. Cover and refrigerate. Remove all of the meat from the turkey after cooking it.
  • Place in an oven-proof pan and pour the “drippings” over the meat to prevent it from drying.
  • Cover and refrigerate.

Thanksgiving Day

The Final Touch: Heat your turkey at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes to one hour, until heated through. Prior to placing the bird in the oven, place a meat thermometer into the thigh (make sure the thermometer does not touch the bone!) You’ll know the bird is cooked when it reaches the following temperatures:

If you’re only cooking a turkey breast, it should be 170° F.

If you’re cooking a whole bird:

  • Thigh should be 180° F
  • Breast should be 170° F
  • Stuffing should be 165° F

And of course, be sure to cook your turkey completely. Don’t partially cook the bird on one day and then finish the next.

*Hint: Everyone looks forward to leftovers, but be sure to use all of them within three days!

 For microwave tips specifically for Thanksgiving, look here. For more how-to tips on Thanksgiving, look here.