ST. LOUIS – Turkey is a traditional and delicious part of the Thanksgiving celebration. If you plan to cook one, you might need to start preparing as soon as Friday.

People need to follow certain procedures for thawing and cooking turkeys ahead of Thanksgiving to avoid foodborne illnesses. Experts at Foodsafety.gov offer many tips to properly prepare it.

Thawing In the Refrigerator

According to the experts, you should thaw a turkey in a refrigerator for around 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds. If your bird weighs more than 20 pounds, you should start thawing in the fridge on Friday, Nov. 18. Make sure the refrigerator is also 40°F or colder.

General recommendations include:

  • 4 to 12 pounds: Thaw in fridge 1 to 3 days
  • 12 to 16 pounds: Thaw in fridge 3 to 4 days
  • 16 to 20 pounds: Thaw in fridge 4 to 5 days
  • 20 to 24 pounds: Thaw in fridge 5 to 6 days

Thawing In Cool Water

If you’re running short on time, you can speed up the turkey-thawing process by using cool water.

When it comes to this method, allow about 30 minutes per pound and change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. A turkey thawed in cold water should also be cooked immediately.

General recommendations include:

  • 4 to 12 pounds: Thaw in water 2 to 6 hours
  • 12 to 16 pounds: Thaw in water 6 to 8 hours
  • 16 to 20 pounds: Thaw in water 8 to 10 hours
  • 20 to 24 pounds: Thaw in water 10 to 12 hours

Cooking The Turkeys

After properly thawing through one of the two methods, turkeys should be cooked immediately at a temperature of 325°F. The goal is to reach an internal temperature of at least 165°F

General cooking recommendations include:

  • 4 to 6 pounds: Breast: unstuffed 1.5 to 2.25 hours
  • 6 to 8 pounds: Breast: unstuffed 2.25 to 3.25 hours; stuffed 3 to 3.5 hours
  • 8 to 12 pounds: Unstuffed 2.75 to 3 hours; stuffed 3 to 3.5 hours
  • 12 to 14 pounds: Unstuffed 3 to 3.75 hours; stuffed 3.5 to 4 hours
  • 14 to 18 pounds: Unstuffed 3.75 to 4.25 hours; stuffed 4 to 4.25 hours
  • 18 to 20 pounds: Unstuffed 4.25 to 4.5 hours; stuffed 4.25 to 4.75 hours
  • 20 to 24 pounds: Unstuffed 4.5 to 5 hours; stuffed 4.75 to 5.25 hours

For more information on turkey preparation, click here. For more Thanksgiving guidance from St. Louis City officials, click here.