If you're looking for Thanksgiving cooking ideas, you needn't look past the ubiquitous turkey. Everyone’s favorite holiday bird has been a popular staple of our feasts since Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday in 1863. The bird is a native species to the Americas, and even before the fowl took its place as the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving dinners, it was highly respectable. The National Turkey Federation notes that Benjamin Franklin, for one, felt that the turkey should have been graced with the title of official United States bird over the bald eagle. They continue by stating that Franklin felt the eagle possessed “bad moral character.” 

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While Franklin was right to point out that the turkey is a “true original native of America,” there’s a level of irony that would almost certainly exist if we were eating our national bird year after year. Perhaps the people who picked the bald eagle had the foresight to see this coming! 

However it went down back then, one thing’s certain now ― turkey consumption has grown exponentially over the decades. The National Turkey Foundation states on its website that the average person ate 16 pounds of turkey in 2012, which is nearly double that of the average 1975 American’s total of 8.3 pounds. 

With so much turkey being consumed, it’s easy to imagine that innovative recipes and new techniques are being created all the time ― and they are. Methods are tried, and the truest are the ones that return each year. 

Regardless of whether you’re frying your turkey, or spicing things up with an exotic curry, there’s one common goal: keeping the turkey moist. Surprisingly, it’s easier than expected. 

You can toil with techniques and test out new recipes, but if you’re not waiting enough time for your bird to defrost, all your efforts will have been made in vain. 

Many people operate under the assumption that a full day is enough for a complete turkey to defrost ― but you know what they say about assuming. 

One day is enough for a small 5-pound bird, but considering the fact that the smallest one you’ll likely find on shelves weighs around twice that, it’s clear you’ll need more than just a day.

The folks at CHOW indicate in the clip below that you probably want to give your bird three to four days to thaw in the fridge. Allrecipes.com echoes a similar sentiment, recommending “one day for every 5 pounds of meat.” If you’re cooking a 20-pounder, you’re going to want to give it four days to defrost. Leaving this time ensures that your guests will be merrily munching on some moist meat instead of struggling through something stringy. 

Assuming that you’ve taken the proper steps to correctly thaw your bird, this one will likely come out better than any turkey you’ve cooked before. You can stick to Grandma’s recipe, and unless she was taking these steps, you can bet that yours will turn out even better than hers. If you don’t have a recipe that’s been passed down through generations, there’s no need to fret. After CHOW outlines the proper way to defrost a turkey in the clip below, they walk through a killer recipe that’ll have your guests finishing their meals with smiles on their faces.