Like all fresh meats, turkey is perishable and should be handled with care. Proper handling and cooking of turkey completely eliminates the risk of bacterial infection.
Before You Cook Turkey
- Wash your hands!
- Always wash countertops, cutting boards, knives and other utensils used in preparing raw turkey with soapy water before they come in contact with other raw or cooked foods.
- Separate raw turkey from other foods.
- Refrigerate raw turkey promptly. Never leave it on countertop at room temperature.
- Packaged fresh turkey may be refrigerated in original wrappings in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
- Freeze uncooked turkey if it is not to be used within 2 days.
- If properly packaged, frozen turkey will maintain top quality in a home freezer for up to 1 year.
- Thaw turkey in the refrigerator — not on the countertop. It takes about 24 hours to thaw every 4-5 pounds of turkey in the refrigerator.
- Thawing in cold water is not recommended. However, turkey may be safely thawed using this method if needed. Keep turkey in its original wrap or water-tight plastic bag and submerge in cold water. Change water approximately every 30 minutes to keep it cold, and play for approximately 30 minutes per pound to thaw the turkey.
- For quick thawing of raw or cooked turkey parts use the microwave. Thawing time will vary.
While You’re Cooking Turkey
- Always cook turkey to 165°F when tested with a meat thermometer.
- For a whole turkey, roast until timer pops up and turkey is fully cooked, 180°F as measured by a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh. Always confirm doneness with a meat thermometer. Juices should run clear. Let turkey stand 20 minutes before carving.
- Marinade in which raw turkey has been soaking should never be used on cooked turkey.
- Refrigerate leftover turkey within 2 hours.
- Cooked, cut-up turkey is at its best refrigerated for no longer than 2 days.
- If leftovers are to be reheated, cover to retain moisture and to ensure that turkey is heated all the way through and heat to 165°F. Bring gravies to a rolling boil before serving.
- If you’re transporting cooked turkey, put it in an insulated container or ice chest until ready to eat. Keep below 40°F or above 140°F.