Preparing a Safe Turkey Dinner

If you are preparing for Thanksgiving, or just making a turkey, it is always good to follow food safety procedures and to make sure you know exactly what you’re doing. It is important to always use a food thermometer to make sure that the temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit so that bacteria that can cause foodborne sickness are reduced. There are lots of things that can determine the roasting time of the entire turkey which is how frozen it is, how the evenly the oven heats, if the turkey is stuffed, what type of a pan you use if it has a lid, and how the turkey fits in the pan. These things can all affect the time it takes for the turkey to cook and should be assessed prior to cooking.
turkey in ovenWhen roasting a turkey, it is standard procedure to set the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. The oven does not need to be preheated to do this. Another great and important tip is to make sure that the turkey is completely thawed before cooking it. A temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below is acceptable. Also, placing the turkey with the breast facing up on a flat wire rack is best for roasting a turkey. Putting it in a roasting pan that is 2-2½ inches deep is recommended. Make sure to tuck the tips of the wings under the shoulders of the turkey and add a half-cup of water to the bottom of the pan for moisture. You can put a tent of aluminum foil over the breast during the first hour or so and remove it or you can choose to wait until it is a golden brown to place the tent.
For the best practice of food safety, cooking the stuffing separate from the turkey is recommended. If you do choose to stuff your turkey, make sure that the stuffing has already been mixed together and do not stuff it too tightly. Additional time will be added for stuffed turkeys for these things to cook inside. To make sure the turkey is safe, make sure to measure the internal temperature and that it is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. When you take it out of the oven, let the turkey cool for 20 minutes before carving the turkey or removing the stuffing from it. Enjoy your turkey this Thanksgiving knowing that it is food safe and good to eat!

Written by:   Taylor Davis, EFNEP Volunteer
For more information on turkey temperatures and food safety visit this website:

© 2024 North Carolina Cooperative Extension
Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)

North Carolina State University
Agricultural and Human Sciences Department

Cooperative Extension at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES)

For our disclaimer, liability, and contact information click here