ST. CLOUD -- Cooking your Thanksgiving feast can be a challenge. Maybe it's your first time and the thought of cooking an up to 20-pound beast in your oven scares you a little bit? Or maybe you are a veteran turkey cooker and need some fresh ideas on how to to vamp up your turkey?

No matter your experience level there's plenty of tips you can take advantage of on how to cook that turkey just right.

Before you can try out any yummy recipes for your turkey you have to make sure you take the correct steps to thaw your bird. According to the USDA there are three safe ways to thaw your gobbler.

1. In the refrigerator, for roughly every 4-5 pounds in takes 24 hours to thaw in a 40 degree or below fridge. Make sure to place your turkey in a container while it thaws, so juices don't drip on other food in your fridge.

2. Cold water thawing, to start, make sure your turkey is in a leak proof bag to prevent cross contamination and water absorbing into the bird. Submerge your turkey completely in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes. Each pound will take about 30 minutes to thaw.

3. Defrost in your microwave, follow the manufacturers directions for how to defrost your gobbler in the microwave.

DO NOT leave your turkey out on the counter to defrost, if it is left sitting at room temperature for more than 2 hours, the outer layers of the turkey will be in the temperature danger zone (40-140 degrees). The danger zone is where food-borne bacteria rapidly multiply.

After thawing you can start gathering ingredients to make your turkey sensational. Here's a few tip lines or websites you can check out.

Representatives with the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line can answer questions as you cook your bird. You can also visit their website for recipes and instructional videos.

Many various Thanksgiving recipes can be found on the Land O Lakes website. Recipes provided come with detailed descriptions and cooking tips. Just a few recipes worth mentioning that should make your mouth water, grilled herb turkey breast, cornbread sage stuffing and pumpkin chocolate bundt cake.

Everything from turkey recipes to pumpkin pie can be found on Pillsbury's website. What's nice about Pillsbury is you get to cheat a little bit. Do you not feel like rolling out a pie crust? With Pillsbury you don't have to, you can buy pie crusts pre-made in the freezer section at the grocery store. Each Pillsbury recipe will tell you which Pillsbury product to buy to ease your holiday cooking stresses.

Of course in order for some of you to get through Turkey Day you'll need some liquid refreshments.


Many wines pair well with turkey, the Minnesota Farm Winery Association says, edelweiss pairs the best with turkey. Cannon River Falls Winery makes a sparkling Edelweiss wine, you can order a bottle on their website. Or you can serve your favorite Merlot, Chardonnay or Cabernet they should also pair well with your bird.

Non-Alcoholic Beverages

If you're looking for a non-alcoholic option, you can go with a sparking juice or cider. Welch's has an entire line of holiday sparkling juices including white grape, red grape, blueberry grape and cranberry flavors. You can check out different recipes to jazz up the sparkling juices on the Welch's website, including Sparkling Holiday Punch. 

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