University of Illinois Extension

Cooking Turkey Safely

  • Decide how much turkey you will need before you shop. Buy one pound per person or 1 1/2 pounds per person if you have hearty eaters or want ample leftovers.

  • Buy and use a meat thermometer (see Using a Thermometer). Dark meat takes longer to cook so always insert the thermometer in the thickest innermost part of the turkey thigh. A whole turkey and turkey parts are 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. The turkey is safe to eat at this point but some consumers, for reasons of personal preference, may choose to cook turkey to higher temperatures.

  • Make sure you have a roasting pan large enough for the turkey.

  • Allow an adequate number of days to refrigerator-defrost a frozen turkey (see Thawing Safely).

  • Wash hands, sinks, counters, utensils and platters thoroughly with soap and hot water before and after working with raw turkey.

  • Remember to remove the giblet bag from inside the turkey.

  • Stuff just before roasting or cook stuffing separate from the turkey.

  • Allow the cooked turkey to sit for at least 20 minutes before carving. During this time juices will be redistributed and the turkey will be easier to carve.

  • After the meal, cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as possible.

  • Remember the safest margin is 2 hours from the time you take the bird out of the oven.

  • Leftover turkey will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.

  • Turkey Basics: Safe Cooking{Spanish}
    Roasting Instructions and approximate cooking times.