Thanksgiving TurkeyHolidays are usually filled with family and food. Each family has different traditions that create many memories over the years. One of my favorite holiday traditions is enjoys my sisters’ homemade dinner roles that originate from Grandma’s recipe.  They have become a side dish tradition I absolutely love. Whatever traditions you enjoy, make sure you are serving food safely.

Cooking a Turkey

Whether you are cooking your first turkey or are an experienced cook, it is important to follow these steps to learn how to plan, cook, serve, store, and reheat turkey.

PLAN. You need to determine what size of turkey to buy. It is recommended to allow 1 pound of turkey per person. Then, decide if you are buying a fresh or frozen turkey. There is a no difference in quality between a fresh or frozen turkey, be sure to purchase it only 1-2 days before cooking. You can buy a frozen turkey at any time as-long-as you have enough space in your freezer. Remember to cook a frozen turkey within 1 year for best quality.

The preferred method to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator. Place a frozen turkey in a container to prevent juices from dripping on other foods and put in a refrigerator set at 40°F or below. Allow approximately 24 hours for each 4-5 pounds of turkey to thaw. For example, it will take about 4 days to thaw a 16-pound turkey. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. You can start thawing the 16-pound turkey in your refrigerator on the Friday before Thanksgiving. Visit for other safe thawing methods that are quicker, if needed.

COOK. There are a variety of ways to cook a turkey, but the most common is roasting. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey even if it has a “pop-up” temperature indicator. A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For optimum safety, it is not recommended to stuff your turkey.  Instead place stuffing in a casserole dish to cook. Use a food thermometer to check that the stuffing reaches an internal temperature of 165°F before serving.

SERVE. Always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Hot foods should be held at 140°F or warmer by using chafing dishes, slow cookers or warming trays. Throw out any turkey left at room temperature longer than 2 hours.

STORE. If you have leftover turkey, cut it into small pieces and refrigerate. Keep the turkey in the refrigerator and eat within 3-4 days or freeze. Use frozen turkey within 2-6 months for best quality.

REHEAT. Cooked turkey may be eaten cold or reheated. To reheat cooked turkey in the oven, set the oven temperature no lower than 325°F and reheat turkey to an internal temperature of 165°F when measured with a food thermometer. To help keep the turkey moist, add a little broth or water and cover.

SOURCE: Turkey 101,