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Raw turkey in roasting pan

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – The best turkey for the holiday table is the one that’s been prepared safely. Angela Treadaway, an Alabama Extension regional food safety and quality agent, offers information on making sure your holiday turkey is also a safe turkey.

Stuffing the Bird

To prepare your stuffing, mix wet and dry ingredients separately and combine just before use. Place the stuffing inside the bird immediately before placing it in the oven. Loosely stuff the turkey, using roughly three-fourths of a cup of stuffing per pound of bird. Place extra stuffing in a greased casserole dish and continue cooking.

“No matter if you are cooking it inside or outside the bird, cook all stuffing and dressing recipes to a minimum temperature of 165°Fahrenheit,” Treadaway said.

Cooking to Temperature

“The single most important thing to know about cooking turkey, no matter the method, is that it must be cooked to the proper internal temperature as measured with a meat thermometer,” Treadaway said.

Inserting a meat thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and into the thickest part of the breast gives the most accurate reading. Temperatures should reach 165°F or higher in both the breast and the thigh.

Timetable for Roasting an Unstuffed Turkey

*Roasted at 325 °F in a thermal/conventional oven.
*Using an open pan method.
PoundsTime Estimate
8 to 12 pounds2-3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds3 to 3-3/4 hours
14 to 18 pounds3-3/4 to 4-1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds4-1/4 to 4-1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds4-1/2 to 5 hours


Timetable for Roasting a Stuffed Turkey

*Roasted at 325 °F in a thermal/conventional oven.
*Using an open pan method.
PoundsTime Estimate
8 to 12 pounds3 to 3-1/2 hours
12 to 14 pounds3 -1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds4 to 4-1/2 hours
18 to 20 pounds4-1/4 to 4-3/4 hours
20 to 24 pounds4-3/4 to 5-1/4 hours

Carving the Turkey

Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes. This allows the juices to set. This ensures that the turkey will carve more easily. It is helpful to use a clean cutting board with a well to catch excess juices. After removing all stuffing from the turkey cavity, use a sharp knife and begin carving the turkey.

Storing Leftovers  

Within two hours of carving, store leftover turkey in shallow containers and put in the refrigerator or freezer.

“If storing in the refrigerator, use cooked leftover turkey and stuffing within three-four day,” Treadaway said. “However, in the freezer, cooked turkey keeps for three to four months.”

When using leftover turkey, reheat thoroughly to 165°F or until hot and steaming.

More Information

For additional questions on cooking a safe turkey, contact your local Extension office and ask to speak to a food safety agent or learn more online at www.aces.edu.

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