TURKEY TIME: Experts recommend thawing your bird up to a week before Thanksgiving

If you haven't thawed your Thanksgiving bird yet, you're running out of time.

Experts say it takes up to a week before the big dinner to prepare the centerpiece Thanksgiving turkey, with most of that time spent on thawing.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, frozen birds that weigh on the heavy end - between 20 and 24 pounds - will need to start thawing the Friday before the holiday.

For a turkey that weighs between 16 and 20 pounds, the Saturday before Thanksgiving is the time to start.

Birds weighing 12 to 16 pounds should be in the fridge starting the Sunday of Thanksgiving week.

For smaller birds - four to 12 pounds, you should start fridge thawing on Monday.

The USDA urges "safe thawing" in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave oven. It advises against thawing out in the open, which includes on the counter or outdoors.

You are urged to allow 24 hours of thaw time for each four to five pounds in a fridge set at 40 degrees or below. You should also place your turkey in a container to collect the juices.

And listen up, procrastinators. A cold water thaw can be used before cooking. You should allow 30 minutes per pound. For a 15-pound bird, that means seven and a half hours.

You are also urged to change the cold tap water every 30 minutes. You're advised to place the turkey in a leak-proof plastic bag to prevent the turkey from absorbing water.

You can get additional turkey safety preparation on the USDA's website.

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