Heads up! You may need to start thawing your Thanksgiving turkey on Friday

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- Turkey is a traditional and delicious part of the Thanksgiving celebration. But if you plan to cook one, you may need to start preparing tomorrow.

Experts at Foodsafety.gov provide tips for thawing and cooking turkeys properly ahead of Thanksgiving to avoid foodborne illnesses.

According to the experts, you can thaw a turkey in a refrigerator set to 40 °F or below for about 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds. If your bird weighs more than 20 pounds, you should start thawing in the fridge on Friday, Nov. 22.

When it comes to cool water thawing, allow about 30 minutes per pound, changing the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. A turkey thawed in cold water should be cooked immediately.

Here's a guideline for thawing turkeys:

4 to 12 pounds: Thaw in fridge 1 to 3 days; thaw in water 2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds: Thaw in fridge 3 to 4 days; thaw in water 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds: Thaw in fridge 4 to 5 days; thaw in water 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds: Thaw in fridge 5 to 6 days; thaw in water 10 to 12 hours

After properly thawing, turkeys should be cooked immediately at a temperature of 325 °F.

Experts recommend the following times for cooking your turkeys:

4 to 6 pounds: Breast: unstuffed 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 hours
6 to 8 pounds: Breast: unstuffed 2 1/4 to 3 1/4 hours; stuffed 3 to 3 1/2 hours
8 to 12 pounds: Unstuffed 2 3/4 to 3 hours; stuffed 3 to 3 1/2 hours
12 to 14 pounds: Unstuffed 3 to 3 3/4 hours; stuffed 3 1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds: Unstuffed 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours; stuffed 4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds: Unstuffed 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours; stuffed 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
20 to 24 pounds: Unstuffed 4 1/2 to 5 hours; stuffed 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours