How Much Time Do You Have To Cook A Turkey After It's Thawed?

Thanksgiving is upon us once again and for many people, it's the one time of year that they will consume turkey. For a few weeks now, grocery stores have been stocking up on the frozen birds, big and small, in preparation for the big day. Many hosts will buy the turkey and other ingredients several days to weeks in advance, so they have adequate time to plan out their holiday cooking schedule. This helps avoid the mad dash to the store the day before Thanksgiving. But is there such a thing as buying your turkey too far in advance? Well, that depends on when you're going to thaw and cook things. 

Something else to consider when buying your bird this year: The New York Times says there's a turkey shortage looming and you can expect your bird to cost a bit more than years prior. Inflation is partly to blame, but there's something else affecting the number of frozen birds hitting shelves this year. In 2019, turkey farmers made a group decision to send fewer birds to market, after the price of turkey plummeted. That, coupled with waves of avian flu killing off millions of birds this past year (via CDC) means a more expensive turkey and fewer of them. So buy your turkey now while you still can. 

A short window to prepare your turkey

Everyone gets ready for the holiday differently, preparing some items a few days in advance or just waking up super early on Thanksgiving day and working countless hours crafting a feast. Either way, if you're on the ball, you've got your frozen turkey thawed and ready to go by Wednesday night or Thursday morning. 

But what if you accidentally put it in the fridge? Or your freezer broke and you had to thaw it? Turns out, you've only got a couple of days to use that thawed bird, so you may need to adjust your plan. The USDA says you should follow the "best-by" date on the packaging and plan to cook your turkey within just a few days after purchasing. The Takeout consulted the famous Butterball Turkey Talk-Line and they said you have up to four days to safely cook your bird after it's been thawed.

With that in mind, it's time to start planning your holiday meal and drawing up a loose schedule for prepping, cooking, and of course, devouring. Chances are good you'll have a lot of leftovers too, but there's no shortage of yummy ways to make use of your Thanksgiving leftovers.