NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County

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Let's Talk Turkey

Let's Talk Turkey—

 

            It’s never too early to talk about turkey!  Turkey may be associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday meals but more and more turkey is being sold at other times of the year also.  Let’s review some common turkey questions/

 

            How much is enough?  For both fresh and frozen turkeys allow 1 pound of turkey per person.

      When to purchase it? Buy a fresh turkey only 1 to 2 days before you plan to cook it. Keep it stored in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook it. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak.  Frozen turkeys can be kept frozen in the freezer indefinitely; however, cook within 1 year for best quality

            Thawing Your Turkey

There are three ways to thaw your turkey safely — in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave oven.

In the Refrigerator (40 °F or below)
Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds

4 to 12 pounds

1 to 3 days

12 to 16 pounds

3 to 4 days

16 to 20 pounds

4 to 5 days

20 to 24 pounds

5 to 6 days

            Keep the turkey in its original wrapper. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. If necessary, a turkey that has been properly thawed in the refrigerator may be refrozen.

 

In Cold Water
Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound

4 to 12 pounds

2 to 6 hours

12 to 16 pounds

6 to 8 hours

16 to 20 pounds

8 to 10 hours

20 to 24 pounds

10 to 12 hours

            Wrap your turkey securely, making sure the water is not able to leak through the wrapping. Submerge your wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze.

 

In the Microwave Oven

      Check your owner's manual for the size turkey that will fit in your microwave oven, the minutes per pound and power level to use for thawing. Remove all outside wrapping. Place on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that may leak. Cook your turkey immediately. Do not refreeze or refrigerate your turkey after thawing in the microwave oven.

 

Roasting Your Turkey

  • Set your oven temperature no lower than 325 °F.
  • Place your turkey or turkey breast on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.
  • For optimum safety, stuffing a turkey is not recommended. For more even cooking, it is recommended you cook your stuffing outside the bird in a casserole. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the stuffing. The stuffing must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.
  • If you choose to stuff your turkey, the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time; however, keep wet and dry ingredients separate. Chill all of the wet ingredients (butter/margarine, cooked celery and onions, broth, etc.). Mix wet and dry ingredients just before filling the turkey cavities. Fill the cavities loosely. Cook the turkey immediately. Use a food thermometer to make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.
  • A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook turkey to higher temperatures.
  • If your turkey has a "pop-up" temperature indicator, it is recommended that you also check the internal temperature of the turkey in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast with a food thermometer. The minimum internal temperature should reach 165 °F for safety.
  • For quality, let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before carving to allow juices to set. The turkey will carve more easily.
  • Remove all stuffing from the turkey cavities.
  •  

Timetables for Turkey Roasting
            Use the timetables below to determine how long to cook your turkey. These times are approximate. Always use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of your turkey and stuffing.

Unstuffed

4 to 8 pounds (breast)

1½ to 3¼ hours

8 to 12 pounds

2¾ to 3 hours

12 to 14 pounds

3 to 3¾ hours

14 to 18 pounds

3¾ to 4¼ hours

18 to 20 pounds

4¼ to 4½ hours

20 to 24 pounds

4½ to 5 hours

 

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