Talking turkey: Time is running out to buy, thaw frozen birds for Thanksgiving

Published 9:27 am Sunday, November 19, 2023

With Thanksgiving only a few days away, it’s time to check the weight of that turkey so it can thaw in time, especially if it hasn’t been purchased yet.

According to Butterball, cooks should plan for about 1.5 pounds of turkey per person to eat on Thanksgiving. Add a little more weight if leftovers are wanted for sandwiches, soups, or other recipes.

The preferred method for thawing is in the refrigerator for several days with the following tips:

  • Thaw turkey breast side up, in an unopened wrapper on a tray in the fridge (40 degrees F or below).
  • Allow at least one day of thawing for every 4 lbs of turkey.
  • Keep turkey in original wrapper and place on tray.
  • Use turkey within four days after thawing.

Depending on the size of the frozen turkey, it may be too late to begin thawing with this method. There is a faster method, but it’s important to follow these safety tips using the cold-water method:

  • Thaw turkey 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.
  • Expect 30 minutes of thawing per pound of turkey.

Butterball also offers a tip line to answer questions about thawing or just about anything else turkey-related. The Turkey-Talk Line can be reached by telephone at 1-800-BUTTERBALL or text via 844-877-3456. The free service is available the following times:

Weekdays Nov 1 – Nov 17 8 am – 8 pm CST
Nov 18 – Nov 19 8 am – 6 pm CST
Nov 20 – Nov 22 7 am – 9 pm CST
Thanksgiving Day 6 am – 6 pm CST
Nov 24 8 am – 6 pm CST
Weekdays Nov 27 – Dec 15 8 am – 6 pm CST
Dec 18 – Dec 22 8 am – 6 pm CST
Dec 23 – Dec 24 8 am – 2 pm CST


“The holiday season can be one of the most exciting times of year, but unfortunately, it can also be one of the most stressful,” said Nicole Johnson, director and 23-year veteran of the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line. “We’ve harnessed more than 40 years of Turkey Talk-Line expertise – the most common questions and sources of confusion as well as the angst that frequently accompanies them – to create this daily resource for often-overlooked holiday hosts.  Particularly as they grapple with inflation and other concerns, it’s an honor to offer our time-tested technical advice, emotional support and even a little levity in this fun, new format this holiday season.”

Butterball released the following stats about this year’s celebration:

Consumers are looking forward to celebrating together.

  • 89% of consumers plan to host or attend a celebration of the same size or larger this year.
  • The anticipated average size of celebrations is 9 people – back to pre-pandemic numbers.
  • 83% of those planning to celebrate Thanksgiving associate the holiday with family; 74% associate it with togetherness.

Consumers are dedicated to celebrating with turkey at the center of their tables.   

  • Turkey remains the most popular part of the meal, followed by stuffing, pie and potatoes.
  • 79% of people serving turkey intend to purchase a whole turkey (fresh or frozen).
  • 81% of hosts plan to buy the same size or larger turkey this year.

Consumers are planning other ways to control the costs of their celebrations, including:

  • 29% will ask guests to bring part of the meal.
  • 16% will ask guests to share the expense of the meal.
  • 14% will host less formal gatherings.