Iowa Poison Control Center
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Turkey Cooking Tips

Turkey Cooking Tips To Prevent Food Poisoning

  • Keep turkey in its original wrapping, refrigerated until ready to cook.
  • Make sure the sell-by-date has not expired.
  • Defrost a frozen turkey by refrigeration or a cold-water bath. Don't defrost a turkey at room temperature. Bacteria can multiply on outer layers before inner layers have defrosted
  • Allow one day for every 5 lbs. in the refrigerator. In a cold water bath, change the water every 30 minutes. A 20 lb. turkey will take 12 hours to defrost in cold water.
  • Don't leave an uncooked thawed turkey out of the refrigerator longer than 2 hours
  • Use a meat thermometer to check if the turkey is done. The turkey should cook until the internal temperature reaches 180-185 degrees. Pierce the turkey in the thickest area of the thigh, making sure the juices run clear not pink.
  • Remove the stuffing immediately after the turkey is cooked. Don't stuff the bird the night before cooking.
  • Don't leave leftovers out on the counter longer than 3 hours.
  • Store the turkey and stuffing separately. Don't store leftover stuffing in the bird.
  • Store leftover turkey in the refrigerator and use within 3-4 days. Store leftover stuffing and gravy in the refrigerator and use within 1-2 days.
  • Don't re-freeze a thawed uncooked turkey.
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