When family and friends get together to celebrate Thanksgiving, holiday cooks must decide on a menu that will please everyone. Most will serve Grandma’s traditional menu and recipes, and turkey will be the star of the table.

Others will want to put their own spin on their family’s favorite turkey recipe by adding unique flavors. They will look for contemporary versions of classic holiday dishes. We are sharing turkey recipes for both the traditionalist and those who want to spice things up.

Here are some tips to help in preparing for the big day:

  • Finalize your menu and decide if you want guests to bring a side dish or dessert. Write a daily to-do list.
  • Purchase the ingredients you’ll need ahead of time to avoid forgetting anything. When selecting the turkey, plan on at least 1 pound per person. That allows for the bones and fat that will be trimmed away.
  • Gather and clean the proper equipment — a pan for the turkey, a meat thermometer, aluminum foil, a large platter, sharpened knives and containers for leftovers.
  • If you bought a frozen turkey, take it out of the freezer from two to seven days before Thanksgiving, depending on the turkey’s size, and thaw it in the refrigerator in its original wrapping. Place in a shallow tray on the refrigerator’s bottom shelf.

Allow one day for every 4 pounds of turkey. If you forget to remove it in time to thaw in the refrigerator, thaw in cold water by completely submerging the turkey, breast side down, in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes, and allow about 30 minutes per pound of turkey.

Butterball experts say an 8- to 12-pound turkey will take about two to three days to thaw in the refrigerator and four to six hours in cold water.

A 24- to 30-pound turkey will take six to seven days to thaw in the fridge or 12 to 15 hours in cold water.

  • After thawing, remove the giblets and rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water, reminds the Mayo Clinic. Use a rack or raw, chopped vegetables as a base on which to place the turkey in the pan to let the air circulate.
  • Avoid salmonella by using sanitizer to wipe down everything the raw turkey might have touched, then wash your hands, the Mayo Clinic says.
  • It will take a small (about 7- to 9-pound) unstuffed turkey about 21/2 to three hours to roast in an open pan at 325 degrees. Add another 15 to 30 minutes if the bird is stuffed.
  • Make the stuffing Thanksgiving morning and stuff the turkey right before it goes into the oven.

Be sure not to over stuff the turkey or it may not cook all the way through. Not enough stuffing and it may be overcooked.

  • Use a meat thermometer to tell if the turkey is properly cooked. It should be 185 degrees in the thigh, 170 degrees in the breast and 165 degrees in the stuffing. Let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes to allow the moisture to redistribute throughout.
  • To carve the turkey, pop the thighs down first, next take the wings off and then separate the legs from the thighs. Cut across the grain of the turkey.
  • Don’t let turkey sit at room temperatures for more than two hours. Refrigerate or freeze leftover turkey promptly. It will keep in the refrigerate for three or four days.

For more advice on cooking turkeys, call the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line at (800) 288-8372 or go to http://www.butterball.com.