Turkey Cooking

A cooked turkey with trimmings.

During the holidays, you may think about your holiday feast. In order to keep your holiday healthy, it is important to prepare your food properly. Keep reading to have your turkey cooking questions answered.

How do I decide what size of a turkey to buy?

  • Whole bird: Plan on one pound per person.
  • Turkey breast: Plan on three-quarters of a pound per person.
  • Boneless turkey breast: Plan on one-half of a pound per person.
  • Pre-stuffed frozen turkey: Plan on one and one-quarter pounds per person.

How do I store my turkey?

  • Take your turkey home immediately from the grocery store or the butcher shop and place it in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • A fresh turkey should be cooked within two days of bringing it home, or it should be frozen.

How do I safely thaw a turkey?

Turkeys may be thawed under refrigeration, in cold water, or in the microwave.

  • In the refrigerator-allow 24 hours for every five pounds. Turkey thawed in the refrigerator may be refrozen without cooking, although there may be some loss of quality.
  • In cold water-allow 30 minutes per pound. Use cold water, not warm or hot, and change the water every 30 minutes. Turkey thawed using the cold water method should be cooked before refreezing.
  • In the microwave-check the microwave manufacturer's directions for the minutes per pound and the power level to use for thawing. Cook the turkey immediately after thawing.

How long and at what temperature should I roast the turkey?

  • Roast an unstuffed turkey in a 325ºF oven until all parts of the turkey are at least 165ºF and juices run clear.
  • If you are cooking a stuffed turkey, make sure that in addition to measuring the temperature of the turkey, you also measure the temperature of the stuffing. The stuffing should reach 165ºF.

Is it safe to cook stuffing inside the turkey?

  • Cook stuffing outside the bird for optimum safety and uniform doneness.
  • If you do decide to stuff the turkey, mix the ingredients just before placing the stuffing inside the turkey.
  • Put the stuffing in the bird loosely-do not pack it in. Use approximately three-quarters of a cup of stuffing per pound of turkey.
  • Make sure the stuffing is moist because moist heat destroys bacteria more rapidly that dry heat.

How can I store leftover turkey safely?

  • Cut the turkey off the bones within two hours of cooking it and refrigerate it promptly.
  • Refrigerate the stuffing and the turkey separately in shallow containers at 35-40ºF and use the leftovers within four days.
  • Cooked turkey may be frozen and kept in the freezer for three to four months.
    I decided to buy a precooked turkey dinner this year. How do I handle it safely?
  • Make sure you pick the food up from the store hot and you keep it hot.
  • If you are going to eat the food within two hours, place the food in the oven at a temperature that will keep it above 140ºF.
  • If you are going to be eating the food later, it will be safer and taste better if you do the following things. It is not a good idea to keep food hot for more than two hours.
    • Remove the stuffing from the turkey and refrigerate it.
    • Cut the turkey off the bone, slicing the breast meat, but leaving the wings and legs whole and then place in the refrigerator.
    • Place all the side dishes in the refrigerator as well.
    • When you are ready to eat, reheat everything to 165ºF.