Thawing meat in the fridge is the simplest way to defrost it, but make sure you leave ample time: A large turkey requires at least 24 hours for every 5 pounds. Defrosting in cold water in the sink is quicker but more labor-intensive, since you should change the water every 30 minutes. If you’re crunched for time, you can defrost meat in a microwave, but cook it immediately afterward because some areas may have already started to cook. Never thaw meat on a counter, which will put it in the “danger zone” of 40 to 140 degrees F, where bacteria can multiply more rapidly.
And however tempting it is, experts say that you should avoid rinsing poultry (and fish) before cooking because it can splatter potentially contaminated droplets of water around your sink and kitchen.
• Cook it enough. In a Consumer Reports National Research Center survey of 1,011 American adults, 39 percent said that they had used a meat thermometer at some point in the past year. And only 8 percent said that they always used one. Even if you’re an experienced cook and think you can tell by color or texture if something is done, the experts that Consumer Reports consulted said the same thing: You can’t.
Check the meat with a thermometer, and it will be happy holidays for you and your guests.