Thanksgiving is a Week Away- Prepare Your Turkey Safely

While the four steps to food safety — clean, separate, cook and chill — are important every day and at every meal, they are particularly important on Thanksgiving. After reading these quick tips, use our helpful chart to find the correct thawing and roasting times for your turkey.

NEVER DEFROST AT ROOM TEMPERATURE– Keep the turkey in its original wrapper. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak. Thawed turkey can stay in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.

KEEP THE SCENE CLEAN– Wash cutting boards, dishes, countertops, and utensils with hot, soapy water. Always wash hands with warm water soapy for 20 seconds before and after handling turkey.

DON’T RINSE THE TURKEY– Do not wash the turkey. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces.

DO I REALLY NEED TO USE A THERMOMETER? Yes. Cook turkey to an internal temperature of 165°F.

WHAT ABOUT STUFFING? The USDA does not recommend stuffing a turkey for food safety reasons. When stuffed, it takes a longer time to cook the turkey, and you must make sure the innermost part of the stuffing has also reached 165°F. This can be challenging with large birds. If you choose to do this. Here is a link to the USDA guidelines for stuffing meats safely. Better yet, check back for our recipe for Apple Cranberry Stuffing made in a slow cooker!

NIBBLING ON LEFTOVERS? Discard any turkey, stuffing, and gravy left out at room temperature longer than 2 hours. Within 2 hours after your meal, divide up leftovers into shallow containers and refrigerate immediately and use or freeze within 3-4 days.


In the Oven– Set the oven temperature no lower than 325°F. Reheat turkey to an internal    temperature of 165°F. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature. To keep the turkey moist, add a little broth or water and cover.

In the Microwave Oven– Cover your food and rotate it for even heating. Allow standing time. Check the internal temperature of your food with a food thermometer to make sure it reaches 165°F. Consult your microwave oven owner’s manual for recommended times and power levels.


USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) to talk to a food safety expert or chat live at from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. If you need help on Thanksgiving Day, the Meat and Poultry Hotline is available from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time.

You can also visit to learn more about how to safely select, thaw, and prepare a turkey.


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