From now until Thanksgiving, we’ll be answering some of the most commonly asked holiday meal questions. Have one you’d like us to consider? E-mail us or join our weekly live Web chat on Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m.

For complete Turkey Day coverage, visit our Thanksgiving Central page.

Q: When should I buy the turkey, and how do I store and thaw it?

A: When you buy the bird depends on whether you’re going with fresh or frozen. A raw, fresh turkey should be stored for no longer than two days in the refrigerator. So if you’re buying fresh and want to keep it that way, you’ll have to make the purchase right before Thanksgiving. Still looking for a fresh, local bird? Don’t wait to reserve one. Most local farmers have been taking orders for weeks now. Have a look at our list of sellers.

In theory, a frozen turkey can last indefinitely. But for the best quality, use a bird on ice within a year. Of course, if you have yet to buy one for this year, you have nothing to worry about in terms of storage time.

Thawing a frozen turkey in the refrigerator is the most hands-off approach but also takes the longest. Allow 24 hours of thawing time per 4 or 5 pounds of turkey, the USDA advises. Place it on a tray to catch any liquid. After thawing in the fridge, your defrosted turkey can sit there another day or two before cooking.

Assuming you have a big enough container or sink, you can also submerge your turkey in cold water to thaw it. The USDA suggests 30 minutes per pound. Change the water every 30 minutes. With that strategy, though, the agency says you should cook the bird immediately after it’s thawed. The same advice applies if you decide to go the microwave defrosting route.

Thanksgiving planning tip of the day

Don’t leave anything to chance. In that spirit, deputy Food editor Bonnie Benwick will be offering nuggets of wisdom as we count down the days until the holiday.

Today’s advice: If you’re hosting, this is a good time to check your stock of plates, place settings, glassware, linens and extra chairs. Plates don’t have to match; as long as the colors coordinate, alternating two different sets can look good down a long table.


(Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)

Lisa King’s Thanksgiving Turkey

(Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)

White House Thyme-Roasted Turkey

(Tracy A .Woodward/The Washington Post; tableware from Crate and Barrel)

California Turkey

(James M. Thresher/For The Washington Post)

Bourbon-Brined Smoked Turkey