Cooking A Perfect Turkey | Safe Cooking Tips & Times
It is the turkey time of year. When the cook's in the family bring out the baster and think of giblets and cranberry sauce. But first the the basics, buy your bird NOW (especially if it is frozen - thawing time folk) and for cooking your Turkey safely check out the guide below, mined for the United States Food and drug administration food safety guide. You can also view the videos at the bottom of the the page.
Turkey | Fresh or Frozen
- Allow 1 pound of turkey per person.
- Buy your turkey only 1 to 2 days before you plan to cook it.
- Keep it stored in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook it. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak.
Frozen Pre-Stuffed Turkeys
As a rule of thumb do not buy fresh pre-stuffed turkeys. If not handled properly, any harmful bacteria that may be in the stuffing can multiply very quickly. If you do buy a pre-stuffed turkey the USFDA says make sure it has its seal of approval on it. These turkeys are safe because they have been processed under controlled conditions. DO NOT THAW before cooking. Cook from the frozen state. Follow package directions for proper handling and cooking.
Conventional Frozen Turkey
Thaw your Turkey in the Fridge. It is also safe to cook a turkey from the frozen state. The cooking time will take at least 50 percent longer than recommended for a fully thawed turkey. Remember to remove the giblet packages during the cooking time. Remove carefully with tongs or a fork
Roasting Your Turkey
- Set your oven temperature no lower than 325 °F.
- Place your turkey or turkey breast on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.
- For optimum safety, stuffing a turkey is not recommended. For more even cooking, it is recommended you cook your stuffing outside the bird in a casserole. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the stuffing. The stuffing must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.
- If you choose to stuff your turkey, the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time; however, keep wet and dry ingredients separate. Chill all of the wet ingredients (butter/margarine, cooked celery and onions, broth, etc.). Mix wet and dry ingredients just before filling the turkey cavities. Fill the cavities loosely. Cook the turkey immediately. Use a food thermometer to make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.
- A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook turkey to higher temperatures.
- If your turkey has a "pop-up" temperature indicator, it is recommended that you also check the internal temperature of the turkey in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast with a food thermometer. The minimum internal temperature should reach 165 °F for safety.
Turkey - With Stuffing
6 to 8 pounds (breast) - 2½ to 3½ hours
8 to 12 pounds - 3 to 3½ hours
12 to 14 pounds - 3½ to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds - 4 to 4¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds - 4¼ to 4¾ hours
20 to 24 pounds - 4¾ to 5¼ hours
Turkey - No Stuffing
4 to 8 pounds (breast) - 1½ to 3¼ hours
8 to 12 po unds - 2¾ to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds - 3 to 3¾ hours
14 to 18 pounds - 3¾ to 4¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds - 4¼ to 4½ hours
20 to 24 pounds - 4½ to 5 hours
More Cooking Hints
- Tuck wing tips under the shoulders of the bird for more even cooking. This is referred to as "akimbo."
- Add ½ cup of water to the bottom of the pan.
- If your roasting pan does not have a lid, you may place a tent of heavy-duty aluminum foil over the turkey for the first 1 to 1 ½ hours. This allows for maximum heat circulation, keeps the turkey moist, and reduces oven splatter. To prevent overbrowning, foil may also be placed over the turkey after it reaches the desired color.
- If using an oven-proof food thermometer, place it in the turkey at the start of the cooking cycle. It will allow you to check the internal temperature of the turkey while it is cooking. For turkey breasts, place thermometer in the thickest part. For whole turkeys, place in the thickest part of the inner thigh. Once the thigh has reached 165 °F, check the wing and the thickest part of the breast to ensure the turkey has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F throughout the product.
For more information about food safety (in English and Spanish), call:
USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline
1-888-MPHotline, 1-888-674-6854, 10 am – 4 pm EST, Monday to Friday
mphotline dot fsis at usda dot gov