Safety tips for turkey preparation

Published 12:43 pm Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Can you believe it’s almost Thanksgiving?

Turkeys will take center stage at many of our holiday meals. It’s important that these birds are properly cooked and prepared, because we don’t want anyone getting sick from food-borne illness.

Whether you buy a fresh or a frozen turkey, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has cooking safety tips we need to follow.

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When purchasing a pre-stuffed turkey, make sure it is frozen and has a seal that states it was inspected by either the USDA or a state department of agriculture. The USDA does not recommend that you purchase a fresh, pre-stuffed turkey, because if handled incorrectly, harmful bacteria can quickly grow in the stuffing.

Frozen turkeys can be safely thawed in either the refrigerator, cold water or in the microwave if the turkey is cooked immediately.

Once you are ready to cook your turkey, set the oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees and place it on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. You can add one-half cup of water to the bottom of the pan to help keep the turkey moist.

For optimal food safety, the USDA recommends that you cook the turkey and stuffing separately, making sure that both reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees.Check the internal temperature of poultry by placing a food thermometer in several locations including the thickest part of the breast and the innermost part of the thigh.

Remember to store leftovers within two hours after the meal. Discard any food that’s been left out longer than that.

To make reheating easier, divide leftovers into small portions. You need to use leftovers within three to four days or they can be frozen for future use.

For more food safety information and timetables for thawing and cooking turkey go to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website at