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Thanksgiving and Your Family

Preparing and Cooking your Turkey Safely

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Updated November 23, 2003

Preparation

The day before Thanksgiving - Make sure you have all the ingredients you need to prepare your holiday meal. Check to make sure you have all the equipment you will need, including a roasting pan large enough to hold your turkey and a meat thermometer. The turkey may be rinsed in cold water the night before and re-wrapped for roasting the next day if you wish. Wet and dry stuffing ingredients can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated separately. This may also be done on Thanksgiving Day. Mix ingredients just before placing the stuffing inside the turkey cavity or into a casserole dish.

Thanksgiving Day - If you choose to stuff your turkey, stuff loosely. The stuffing should be moist, not dry, since heat destroys bacteria more rapidly in a moist environment. Place stuffed turkey in oven immediately. You may also cook the stuffing outside the bird in a casserole.

Judging cooking time for your turkey will be easier if the following chart is used. The times listed are for a fresh or thawed turkey in an oven at 325 ° F. These times are approximate.

Unstuffed Turkey Cooking Times

Size of Turkey - Hours to Prepare 8 to 12 pounds - 2 3/4 to 3 hours 12 to 14 pounds - 3 to 3 3/4 hours 14 to 18 pounds - 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours 18 to 20 pounds - 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours 20 to 24 pounds - 4 1/2 to 5 hours

Stuffed Turkey Cooking Times

Size of Turkey - Hours to Prepare 8 to 12 pounds - 3 to 3 1/2 hours 12 to 14 pounds - 3 1/2 to 4 hours 14 to 18 pounds - 4 to 4 1/4 hours 18 to 20 pounds - 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours 20 to 24 pounds - 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey . When the temperature of the poultry (as measured in the thigh) has reached 180 ° F, there is usually no other site in the bird lower than the safe temperature of 160 ° F. Check the temperature in several locations, being sure to include the wing joint. All turkey meat, including any that remains pink, is safe to eat as soon as all parts reach at least 160 ° F. The stuffing should reach 165 ° F, whether cooked inside the bird or in a separate dish.

When turkey is removed from the oven, let it stand 20 minutes. Remove stuffing and carve turkey.

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