turkey safety tips

Many people choose to buy frozen turkeys in advance of their Thanksgiving meal. Since most of the meat that we purchase is fresh, some frozen turkey safety tips are helpful to making sure your turkey is thawed, prepared, and stored safely.

Top Frozen Turkey Safety Tips

Tips on buying a frozen turkey

  • Make sure the packaging is tightly sealed around the turkey
  • Pick up the turkey and other meat items last on your grocery trip
  • Ask to have your turkey bagged separately from other groceries

How to store an uncooked turkey

  • Make sure your refrigerator is set to a temperature at or below 40°F. Cook within 4 days.
  • If you purchased a raw turkey but need to freeze it, leave it in its original wrapping
  • If you wish to freeze uncooked turkey parts, wrap or seal them in freezer bags and mark with the date
  • A frozen, whole turkey can be kept for approximately 12 months in a freezer set at or below 0°F
  • Frozen turkey parts can be kept for approximately nine months in a freezer set at or below 0°F

Thawing your turkey

  • Ideally you would allow turkey to defrost in the refrigerator (never on the counter). See defrost times here or allow about one day for every four to five pounds of turkey.
  • Second choice is to thaw the turkey under cold water in its original packaging or a leak-proof bag. Submerge the bird or cut-up parts in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. The estimated minimum thawing time is 30 minutes per pound for whole turkey.
  • Third choice is to thaw turkey in the microwave (only practical for small turkeys). When thawing turkey in the microwave, follow your owner’s manual and immediately cook the bird after thawing because some areas may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving.
  • Do not refreeze thawed, raw turkey

How to prepare your turkey

  • Thoroughly wash hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before, during, and after handling raw turkey
  • Use two separate cutting boards to avoid cross-contamination. One board for raw meats, poultry, and seafood and the other for ready-to-eat foods such as vegetables.
  • Read the “safe food handling” label on the turkey package; it will give you tips for proper food handling and cooking.

Cooking and storing your turkey

  • Use a food thermometer pushed well into the breast and/or thigh of your turkey. Cook until the thermometer reaches a temperature of at least 165°F. Note that the stuffing in a stuffed turkey must reach 165°F. It is best to cook stuffing separately. Read recommended cooking times here.
  • Refrigerate leftover turkey within two hours of being out of the oven
  • Once in the fridge, cooked turkey should be eaten or frozen within three to four days
  • To freeze cooked turkey, wrap it in freezer wrap or tightly sealed freezer bags and mark with the date
  • Cooked turkey can be kept frozen for up to six months in a freezer set at or below 0°F

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