NDSU Extension - Ramsey County


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Lets Talk Turkey

“Let’s Talk Turkey”


By, Sara Laite, RD, LRD

Extension Agent


I can’t believe we’re already thinking about Thanksgiving and the holiday season.  One of the best parts is definitely the roasted turkey.  I remember the very first turkey I prepared for my family.  I was a wreck, worried I was going to do something wrong.  After some trial and error, I am completely confident in my turkey roasting abilities (most of the time)!  If you are doing the cooking this year, the following will guide you in making sure your turkey is prepared safely from planning to storage.


Planning: Before purchasing your turkey, make sure you have space in your refrigerator, rearranging as needed.  Plan for 1 pound of turkey per person and allow enough thawing time if frozen.  If buying fresh, purchase it only 1-2 days before the meal and keep it refrigerated.


Thawing:  Whole, frozen turkey takes about 24 hours per 4-5 pounds to thaw in the refrigerator.  Keep the turkey in its original wrapper and place it on a pan to catch any juices that may leak.  Once thawed, it can safely remain in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.  You can also thaw your turkey in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes.  Cook immediately after thawing in cold water.   


Cooking:  It’s safest to cook your dressing in a separate container instead of stuffed in the bird.  However, if you choose to stuff your turkey, place it loosely inside right before cooking.  You’ll need about ¾ cup dressing per pound of turkey.  Cook breast up at an oven temperature of 325 F or hotter.  Place foil over the breast to prevent overcooking, and remove near the end of cooking for browning. 


For safety and doneness, the internal temperature should be checked with a food thermometer and should reach 165 F.  The popup thermometers that come with the turkeys are not always accurate!  Check the temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.  Let the bird stand 20 minutes before removing stuffing and carving.  For approximate roasting guidelines, see our publication, “Fight Bac! Let’s Talk Turkey” (FN1443), on our website.


Storage:  Remove stuffing and debone turkey before chilling in shallow containers.  Refrigerate immediately after the meal, or at least within 2 hours of cooking.  Serve leftover turkey within 4 days; and leftover stuffing and gravy within 2 days.  For best quality, freeze plain, cooked turkey at 0 F or below for up to 4 months.


Do you cook for groups? Check out our newly revised publication, “Cooking for Groups: A Volunteer’s Guide to Food Safety” (FN585), on our website, https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/extension, for more information on preparing food safely for large gatherings. 


Here’s my “go to” recipe for using up that delicious, left-over turkey.

Easy Turkey Pot Pie

1 cup cut up cooked turkey

1 (16-oz.) bag frozen vegetables (thawed)

1 (10 ¾-oz.) can condensed cream of chicken soup

1 cup biscuit mix (such as Bisquick)

¼ cup low-fat milk

1 egg

Preheat oven to 400 F. Stir turkey, vegetables, and soup in an ungreased 2-quart casserole dish. Stir the remaining ingredients until blended. Pour over the turkey mixture. Bake uncovered about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 200 calories, 9g fat, and 19g carbohydrate.


For more information on this and other nutrition related items, contact the Ramsey County Extension Office at 701-662-7027.  Website: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/ramseycountyextension.  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NDSUExtRamsey/.


(Sara Laite is a Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Education Agent for the NDSU Extension in Ramsey County.)


Source: Fight Bac! Let’s Talk Turkey, NDSU Extension, 2018.

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