SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — There are only three days left until Thanksgiving, which means now is the time to prepare.

Whether it’s your 15th Thanksgiving or your first, you might need a reminder or have some questions on how to thaw your turkey, how long to cook it, how to carve it and what you can do with your leftovers.

Whatever the case may be, NewsChannel 9 has made a “Turkey Tips” guide so you can be stress-free this Thanksgiving and cook a perfect turkey that you’ll be able to enjoy for a while.

How to thaw your turkey

It’s now time to put that turkey in a tray and put it in the refrigerator to thaw. However, depending on the size, some turkeys can take days to thaw.

In order to determine when you need to take your bird out of the freezer, the USDA recommends for every four pounds of turkey, you allow 24 hours for defrosting.

Thawing in the refrigerator

Here’s when you would need to take your turkey out of the freezer to defrost in the refrigerator based on the following weights:

  • Five days for 20 pounds
  • Four days for 16 pounds
  • Three days for 12 pounds
  • Two days for eight pounds

Thawing with the cold water method

If you have lost a day of defrosting already, don’t worry, there are ways to speed up the process. One of those ways is the cold water method.

According to the USDA, you should first double-check to make sure there aren’t any holes or cuts in the plastic wrap of your turkey, and then submerge it in a large bucket of cold tap water in your sink.

Every 30 minutes you’ll change the water and count how many times you have to do that until you reach that turkey’s weight.

Here’s how long you’ll have to do this process for every size of turkey:

  • Eight pounds: Four hours to defrost
  • 12 pounds: Six hours to defrost
  • 16 pounds: Eight hours to defrost
  • 20 pounds: 10 hours to defrost

If you do use the cold water method, the Turkey has to be cooked immediately after it’s thawed.

Thawing in the microwave

If you have no choice but to thaw your turkey last minute, you can try and use the microwave to do so if your turkey fits.

If it fits, first remove all of the packaging and place the turkey in a microwave-safe dish and then microwave every six minutes per pound, rotating and flipping throughout.

Here’s how long you’ll have to microwave it per pound to defrost:

  • Eight pounds: 48 minutes (rotating a total of eight times every six minutes)
  • 12 pounds: One hour and 12 minutes (rotating a total of 12 times every six minutes)
  • 16 pounds: One hour and 36 minutes (rotating a total of 16 times every six minutes)
  • 20 pounds: Two hours (rotating a total of 20 times every six minutes)

Once again, just like the cold-water method, when it’s thawed, cook it right away.

How long does it take to cook a turkey?

According to the USDA, depending on if you stuff your turkey, it might take a little longer to cook it.

If you don’t stuff your turkey, simply put it in the oven at 365 degrees Fahrenheit and take it out once your food thermometer reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you do stuff your turkey, take it out when your food thermometer reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the innermost part of the thigh, wing and thickest part of the breast. Remove the stuffing immediately after you take out the turkey and cover.

Based on the weight of your turkey, it will take the following time to cook your turkey:

WeightUnstuffed timingStuffed timing
8 to 12 pounds2.75 – 3 hours 3 – 3.5 hours
12 to 14 pounds3 – 3.75 hours 3.5 – 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds3.75 – 4.25 hours4 – 4.25 hours
18 to 20 pounds4.25 – 4.5 hours 4.25 – 4.75 hours
20 to 24 pounds4.5 – 5 hours4.75 – 5.25 hours

How to carve your turkey

Once you take out your turkey, allow 15 to 30 minutes to let it cool and then you can start cutting. If you have any stuffing inside make sure to take that out right away and set aside.

It helps if you first cut the leg and thigh, then the wings, the breast, and then separate the white and dark meat.

Turkey leftover recipes

Now that you’ve stuffed your stomach with all those festive foods, maybe you’re thinking about some creative and tasty ways to use those leftovers. Look no further! We’ve gathered some of the tastiest meals that you can make without spending a dime!

Turkey Tostadas

Chef Gonzalo Gonzalez Guzman of Nopalito makes chicken tostadas at home in San Francisco, California, on Monday, June 9, 2015. (Liz Hafalia/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

Who doesn’t love a tasty tostada? Not only are they quick and easy to make, but you will also most likely have some leftovers that will make for the ultimate Thanksgiving snack.


  • 2 cups cooked turkey (cut into bite-size pieces, or 2 cups ground turkey, browned in a skillet and drained)
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning (chili)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 4 corn tortillas
  • 1/4 cup refried beans (low-fat or fat-free)
  • 1/4 cup Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (shredded, low-fat)
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup lettuce (shredded)
  • 2 tablespoons onion (chopped)
  • 8 tablespoons taco sauce (1/2 cup)
  • plain yogurt (low-fat or fat-free optional)
  • guacamole (or mashed avocado optional)


  1. Wash and prepare vegetables.
  2. In a large skillet, over medium heat, combine turkey, taco seasoning, and water.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Place tortillas on a cooking sheet. Bake at 375° for 4-7 minutes or until tortillas are crispy.
  5. Spread tortillas with a tablespoon of beans. Top with 1/4 meat mixture and cheese.
  6. Return tortillas to oven to cook for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is melted.
  7. Top with tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and taco sauce. Garnish with yogurt and guacamole, if desired.

This recipe is provided by

Leftover Turkey Casserole

This June 9, 2014 photo shows easy overnight ham and cheese casserole in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

This hearty casserole can be made with a handful of ingredients, a plus? You most certainly have all the ingredients sitting in your fridge from Thanksgiving!


  • 6 slices bread, whole wheat
  • 4 ounces cubed turkey
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, 1%
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup, low-sodium (10.75 ounces)
  • 2 slices bread, whole wheat
  • 2 teaspoons margarine
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, low-fat shredded (or jack cheese)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise, light


  1. Lightly coat a 9x9x2-inch baking dish with vegetable spray. Cut six slices of bread (fresh or day-old) into 1-inch cubes and place half into the bottom of a baking dish.
  2. In a bowl combine turkey, onion, celery, mayonnaise, and pepper. Place mixture over bread crumbs.
  3. Place the remaining bread cubes over the turkey mixture and press down slightly with a spoon.
  4. Combine eggs and milk and pour the mixture over cubes. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325°F
  6. Spoon soup over top of casserole.
  7. Spread one teaspoon of margarine on each slice of bread. Cut buttered bread into 1/2-inch cubes and sprinkle on top of the casserole.
  8. Bake for 60 minutes or until the knife comes out clean. Remove from oven and sprinkle cheese over the top. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

This recipe is provided by

Turkey and Stuffing Quiche

A slice of Sweet Onion, Gruyre, and Bacon Quiche is seen in this Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2007 photo. A few fat-reducing tricks, like eliminating half the egg yolks usually used, will let you make a full flavor but healthier quiche for your next impromptu holiday gathering. This quiche reheats well and is also great cold. (AP Photo/Larry Crowe)

This recipe is a bit time-consuming, but the result will be a fan favorite. Plus! It won’t cost you anything, thanks to your leftovers! The only thing you may need to buy is a pie shell!

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 1 cup of crumbled leftover stuffing
  • 1 cup of chopped leftover turkey
  • 1 cup of shredded sharp Cheddar
  • 1/4 cup of parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for the custard:

  • 1 1/4 cups of half-and-half
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Par-bake the crust according to package directions. Let it cool slightly before adding the filling.

For the filling:

  1. Sprinkle the stuffing and turkey in the par-baked shell. Top with cheddar cheese and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

For the custard:

  1. Whisk together the half and half, eggs, nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl.
  2. Pour the custard over the filling. Adjust the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake until set, 35 to 45 minutes. Let it cool for at least 30 minutes before serving warm or at room temperature.

This recipe is provided by Food Network.

Hot Turkey Sammys

An all-American staple, the hot turkey sandwich will never fail as the ultimate Thanksgiving leftover creation. Its gooey goodness and collective flavor bring your tastebuds on a journey through Thanksgiving bliss.

This staple can be served between the bread or as an open-faced sandwich.

Ingredients for the potatoes:

  • 2 pounds of potatoes
  • 1/2 cup of sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 strips of par-cooked bacon, crisped in the microwave and chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Ingredients for the warm apple-cranberry sauce:

  • 1 cup of store-bought apple sauce
  • 1 (14-ounce) can of whole-berry cranberry sauce

Ingredients for the stuffing (If you don’t have stuffing):

  • 2 slices of whole-grain bread
  • Butter
  • 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan


  1. Preheat a medium skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Place potatoes in a medium pot. Cut larger potatoes in half. Leave smaller potatoes whole. Cover potatoes with water and top with a lid. Place over high heat. When the water boils, salt water and cook potatoes with the lid off the pot for 10 to 11 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Place a second low pot on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add apple sauce and canned cranberry sauce. Stir to combine and gently heat through about 10 minutes.
  4. Toast 2 slices of whole grain bread and butter heavily, 1/2 tablespoon per slice. Chop into small cubes and reserve.
  5. Add extra-virgin olive oil and sausage meat to a hot skillet. Brown and crumble the sausage with a wooden spoon or heat-safe spatula. Add onions and celery to the skillet, then season with poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper and cook for five minutes. Add bread to the skillet and stir to combine. Dampen the stuffing with chicken stock and turn to combine. Turn off the heat and cover the pan loosely with foil to hold the heat.
  6. Preheat a second skillet over medium heat to prepare turkey and gravy.
  7. Drain cooked potatoes and return to hot pot. Smash with sour cream, butter, and crisp chopped bacon. Season the mashed potatoes with salt and pepper. If they are too thick, thin them out with milk or a splash of broth.
  8. Add two tablespoons of butter to preheated skillet and melt it. Whisk in flour and cook for one minute. Whisk in two cups of stock or broth. Add the poultry seasoning, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper to the gravy. Allow it to thicken slightly.
  9. Cut roasted turkey meat away from the breast bones of rotisserie turkey breast. If you are using deli turkey, remove it from the packaging and separate the slices. Set turkey into the gravy.

This recipe is provided by Food Network.

Leftover Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

This December 2017 photo shows a shepherd’s pie in New York. This dish is from a recipe by Katie Workman. (Carrie Crowder/Katie Workman via AP)

This hearty Thanksgiving leftover meal is one to keep in mind when you feel overwhelmed by the leftovers.

The best part of this recipe is that you combine all of you’re leftovers into one pan and bake it hassle-free!


  • 2 tablespoons of butter (unsalted)
  • 1 large onion (chopped)
  • 1 medium green bell pepper (chopped)
  • 1 medium carrot peeled and chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery (chopped)
  • ½ teaspoon of dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon of dried thyme
  • salt and pepper (for taste)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of chicken broth 
  • 1 cube of chicken bouillon
  • 2 cups of turkey meat (white or dark, chopped into small pieces)
  • ½ cup of frozen peas
  • 4 cups of mashed potatoes
  • 1 cup of mozzarella cheese (shredded)

Although the recipe says to measure, feel free to tweak it into what you like!


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the chopped onion, bell pepper, carrot, and celery. Cook until veggies soften and onion is tender and translucent about 5 minutes.
  3. Add herbs and broth: Add the basil, thyme, salt, pepper, and garlic. Stir well and cook for another 30 seconds until the garlic is aromatic. Sprinkle the flour over the veggies and stir well. Cook for one to two minutes to remove the raw flour taste. Add the chicken broth and chicken bouillon cube and stir to dissolve the cube. Cook for five more minutes until the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add turkey, and peas, and finish with mashed potatoes: Add the turkey and peas. Stir well and bring the filling back to a boil. Spread the mashed potatoes over the filling and smooth with a spoon. Take a fork and rough up the top a bit then sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
  5. Bake: Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 30 minutes until the cheese melts and is golden on top and bubbly.
  6. Garnish with parsley if preferred and serve warm.

This recipe was provided by