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Preparing Your Holiday Turkey

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

Turkey prep graphic

According to the USDA National Retail Turkey Report, the cost per pound of turkey is up 79% from 2021 ($1/lb. to $1.79/lb.). What can you do to reduce waste and save money this holiday season? Make a shopping list, shop your pantry before heading to the store, and store food safely!

Shopping for your Turkey:

It’s important to pick a turkey that is the right size. If you’re buying a traditional bird (bone in), you’ll want to plan for 1-1.5 pounds per person. If you’re purchasing a boneless turkey product, assume 6-8 ounces.

Storing your Uncooked Turkey:

According to the USDA, fresh turkeys can be stored for one to two days in the refrigerator. “For longer storage, freeze a fresh turkey within one to two days of purchase... It will stay safe in the freezer indefinitely. Use within 12 months for best quality.” Keep frozen turkeys frozen until you’re ready.

Thawing your Turkey:

If frozen, remove the bird from the freezer several days before cooking. Place it on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator on a tray to prevent any liquids from dripping into a drawer below. Plan a day for every 4-5 pounds of frozen weight. If you purchased a frozen 15-pound bird, you should thaw it in your refrigerator for 3-4 days before cooking.

Cooking Your Turkey:

Once thawed, remove the gizzard, and save for later. Do not wash out your turkey. Washing out your turkey can unintentionally spread bacteria. Cook your turkey, unstuffed (to reduce the risk of spreading bacteria). Pre-heat your oven to 450°F and drop the temperature to 350°F once the turkey is in. Turkeys should be cooked 13-15 minutes per pound. A 15-pound turkey will need to cook for at least 3 hours and 15 minutes.

Serving and Preserving Your Cooked Turkey:

Once cooked, remove from the oven and let the turkey rest for 15 minutes. Serve on an open platter, let everyone see your beautiful work!

Have leftovers? Store leftover turkey within 2 hours of serving. Food on the bone will spoil faster than food off the bone. Remove turkey from the bone, place in shallow containers, and refrigerate what you plan to eat in the next two days. Anything else should be frozen. We suggest small, shallow, single serving containers so that you can take them for a meal at work. This will save you time and money!

Turkey Stock:

What do you do with that leftover turkey carcass? Turn it into a turkey stock! We’ve modified our vegetable stock recipe to get the most out of your turkey bones.


  • 1 cooked turkey carcass (about 4 lbs).

  • Vegetable Scraps

  • Onion skins

  • Carrot tops

  • Celery stalks

  • Tomato ends

  • Unusual Vegetable Scraps

  • Red Cabbage (will make your stock purple)

  • Cucumber (makes a soft potato-like flavor)

  • Red Peppers (adds a sweet flavor)

  • Corn Cobs (adds a sweet flavor)


1. Fill up a zipper bag or clear storage container in your freezer with vegetable scraps. (I use a 2-quart container).

2. Once the container is full, dump the scraps into a pot.

3. Add enough water so that the scraps are floating (I use about 16 cups of water).

4. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered for 1 hour.

5. Strain out vegetables.

6. Refrigerate the broth for one week or freeze for three months.

7. Dispose of scraps in the trash or, if you’re in the Greater Cincinnati area, find a reputable company that can take meat scrap for compost like CompostNow or GoZero.

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