turkeyCOLUMBIA, Mo. — As cooks begin to prepare Thanksgiving Dinner for family and friends tomorrow evening, the University of Missouri is offering tips to help.

“That turkey does have to be thawed before it is cooked, and that means you need to be planning ahead,” said Tammy Roberts, nutrition specialist with the University of Missouri Extension.

Those looking to get a turkey from the store last minute could face unexpected challenges. Roberts said the first is understand what type of turkey to look for.

“When you go to the grocery store, some of the packages say ‘hen’ and some say ‘tom,'” said Roberts. “Lot’s of times people want to buy the hen turkeys, because they think it will be a more tender turkey. The truth of the matter is that ‘hen’ and ‘tom’ only refer to size.’

To get the bird on the table in time for dinner, several factors will make a difference according to Roberts.

“That turkey does have to be thawed before it is cooked and that means you have to be planning ahead,” Roberts explained. “Really the best way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator.”

Roberts suggested allowing one day of thawing for every five pounds of meat. With less than 24 hours until Thanksgiving Day, Roberts said that may not be an option.

“If you need to thaw your turkey quickly, you can do it safely in a cold water bath,” Roberts claimed. “That means completely submerging the wrapped turkey in cold water, and making sure that you change that water every half hour.”

Roberts said to never let your turkey thaw on the counter top for safety reasons.