NEW YORK – Trying to get your bird and fixings just right for Thanksgiving can be a tall order.
But don't panic — a variety of experts are here to help.
The first step is picking out the right size turkey, said Cheri Olerud of Betty Crocker Cookbook (search).
"A simple rule to follow is to allow about one pound of uncooked turkey per person," she said.
Cooking a tasty turkey requires some careful preparation.
"Make sure you thaw it in a cold way, either in your refrigerator or in cold water," said Mary Clingman of the Butterball Turkey (search) talkline.
The National Turkey Federation (search) recommends that, when thawing out a turkey, leave the bird in the original packaging and place it in a shallow pan. Whole turkeys thaw at a rate of 4 to 5 pounds per 24 hours. A 15-pound frozen bird, for example, will take three to four full days to thaw in a refrigerator.
Clingman said the second step is to use a meat thermometer.
"It's the best way to make sure the turkey is cooked just right," she said.
If you're roasting a turkey, the NTF suggests you cook it until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit in the breast and 180 degrees in the thigh.
But first, you've got to baste your bird.
"This mixture here is chicken broth, some lemon juice ... it also has some dried thyme, basil and salt, and that adds a lot of flavor to the chicken broth while the turkey is baking," said cooking expert Barbara Albright.
When stuffing the turkey, the NTF said to prepare stuffing ahead of time so it can be stuffed into the turkey immediately before it is placed in the oven for roasting. Use about 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey. The internal temperature in the center of the stuffing should register 160 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit when finished.
According to the NTF, 95 percent of Americans' surveyed reported eating turkey last Thanksgiving.
While 94 percent of Americans preparing Thanksgiving dinner roasted their turkeys, interest and experimentation in non-traditional methods of turkey preparation, such as deep-frying, brining, smoking and grilling, are gaining in popularity.
And experts say it's easy to be creative with turkey, because it's easily seasoned and complements any side dish.
"You can change the flavor profile of turkey by altering the cooking method, preparation or both," said Sherrie Rosenblatt of the NTF. "Experiment with different rub and marinade seasonings, then try deep frying, brining or grilling for added flavor."
And don't forget about the gravy.
"Stir in your flour, use a wire whisk to keep the gravy lump-free," Olerud said.
For wine, pour a new bottle of Georges DuBoeuf's Beaujolais Nouveau, which hits stores just days before Thanksgiving.
And of course, a Thanksgiving dinner wouldn't be complete without pie, whether it be pumpkin, apple or pecan. For a crisper crust, try using a glass pan.
For an alternative — or addition — to pie, www.bettycrocker.com suggests Cranberry Trifle Squares, layers of cranberries, sweet whipped cream, pound cake, sugar cookies and almonds; Spiced Pumpkin Praline Roll, which has "all the flavors of fall" rolled into it; and the Lemon-Luscious Pumpkin dessert, which is like pumpkin pie in dessert-bar form.
For the health-conscious, there's always Tofu Pumpkin Pie.
And if you're looking to spice things up this Turkey Day, how about baking your potatoes with wasabi? Or sprinkling Asian noodles on your salad? You could even add fresh pomegranate to your rice pilaf for a festive flare, or buck the turkey tradition altogether by serving lamb.
If you still find yourself in a turkey jam, there are a variety of Web sites and hotlines to call on Thanksgiving.
Emerils.com, the Web site for world-famous chef Emeril Lagasse, offers a detailed turkey how-to. Amateur chefs can call 1-800-BUTTERBALL for a feastful of free advice, as well as check out Martha Stewart's Thanksgiving Planner online. There's also www.weightwatchers.com for lighter gobble-gobble fare.
Fox News' Brenda Buttner contributed to this report.