Cooks Exchange

Don’t forget it takes days to thaw a turkey and other tips for Thanksgiving prep

The traditional Thanksgiving feast can be made by the host but plan ahead.
The traditional Thanksgiving feast can be made by the host but plan ahead. KRT

Eight days until Thanksgiving. Has the turkey been purchased?

Remember a frozen turkey takes time to thaw. Allow one day of thawing time for every 4 pounds of turkey. A 16-pound turkey will take four days to thaw in the fridge.

Don’t try to thaw by running water from the faucet over the bird; germs can accumulate with this method. Another no-no is thawing the turkey at room temperature.

Whole frozen turkeys and frozen turkey breasts need to be thawed in the fridge. A thawed turkey will keep in the refrigerator four days.

Thawing methods

The experts at Butterball, the famous turkey people, offer help with the thawing, as well as the cooking. They suggest two methods of thawing, the refrigerator method and the cold-water method.

With refrigerator thawing, thaw breast side up in an unopened wrapper on a tray in the fridge (40 degrees or below). Keep turkey in original wrapper and place on tray. Use within four days after thawing.

Thawing time for the cold-water method is quicker, but it is more work. Thaw breast side down, in an unopened wrapper, with enough cold water to cover your turkey completely. Change water every 30 minutes, and if turkey cannot be completely covered, rotate every 30 minutes to keep the turkey chilled.

Thawing time is a minimum of 30 minutes per pound. Some turkey products, including Butterball’s, are made to go from freezer to oven, skillet or grill. These are frozen stuffed whole turkeys, frozen ready to roast breast roasts and frozen ready to roast boneless roasts.

Menu recipes

Now that the bird is taken care of. It is time to review menu recipes and make your last shopping list. Make that list and check it several times. Who wants to face the crowds at the supermarkets next Wednesday? Not me.

Andrea’s rule: If I don’t have it, I don’t need it.

This may sound super structured, which is not me, but make a cooking schedule for the next week. Another helpful hint from the folks at Better Homes and Gardens; it keeps the stress levels lower.

A few more BHG tips:

▪ Plan the seating arrangements if having a large gathering.

▪ Plan ahead if youngsters are coming. Have plenty of games and movies ready. Also ask parents to bring their kids favorite toys.

▪ Get the yard ready for company.

▪ By Sunday, call your guests to double check what they are bringing and if their dishes need oven space and serving utensils. Clean house from top to bottom. Put out decorations or candles.

▪ A good host/hostess plans for leftovers. Have plastic bags and containers so guests can take home a doggie bag or container. But, remember not to let the pooch eat those leftovers.

▪ On Tuesday, plan on shopping for perishable food items. BHG experts suggest washing and cleaning vegetables, set out bread to dry out for stuffing and make cranberry sauce. I add dry toast to my cornbread dressing. I will make the cornbread the day before Thanksgiving.


One Women of Wisdom friend said she loved the timeline and recipes that I have been sharing, but she was buying two complete dinners at Rouses. She wasn’t cooking. She wanted to enjoy her company.

Another liked the price of a pan of Quality Seafood’s dressing.

If you are planning to order dinners from a supermarket, seafood market or restaurant, get to dialing. There are deadlines for ordering.

If you have never made cranberry sauce, it is so simple and tastes so much better than the jellied canned cranberry. I like to use cinnamon and nutmeg with orange juice in my cranberry sauce. Sometimes I switch and use pineapple, which is my favorite fruit.

One year, my late husband and I made a cranberry salsa that we loved. I thought I would share some cranberry sauce recipes today that are easy and might spice up Thanksgiving dinner. I also offer a double berry salad that can do double duty as a sweet cranberry side.

Andrea Yeager can be reached at and Cooks Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.


1 pound cranberries, fresh or frozen

1 cup orange juice or pineapple juice

1/2-3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Place cranberries in heavy saucepan. Pour in juice, sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir well. Reduce heat to low or simmer and place lid on pan. Cook until liquid has evaporated and about half the berries have popped. Place in serving dish or container. Serve hot or cold. If making two days ahead, refrigerate sauce in airtight container.


2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

2 cups water

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh minced cilantro

2-4 tablespoons fresh chopped jalapenos

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons grated orange peel

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

In saucepan, bring cranberries and water to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Drain. Stir in sugar until it dissolves. Stir in cilantro, jalapenos, onion, orange peel, salt and pepper. Store in airtight container in refrigerator until ready to serve.

From Taste of Home magazine


1 (3-ounce package raspberry flavored gelatin

1 cup boiling water

1 (16-ounce) can whole berry cranberry sauce

3/4 cup finely chopped celery (I omit; I hate celery) I use 3/4 cup drained crushed pineapple.

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Lettuce leaves

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Chill until mixture is the consistency of unbeaten egg white. Stir in cranberry sauce, celery (if using) and pecans.

Spoon mixture into lightly oiled individual molds or a 4-cup mold. Cover and chill until firm. Unmold onto lettuce leaves. Yield: 10 servings.

“Christmas With Southern Living 1991”