Food Safety Tips for Cooking Thanksgiving Turkeys From the Centers for Disease Control

By on November 23, 2019
Cook with Caution

Is this your first year cooking a Thanksgiving turkey for the family? Or maybe it’s been several years since you’ve cooked “the bird.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, offers food safety tips for cooking your holiday turkey, which includes;

  • Safely Thaw Your Turkey (three options)
    • In the refrigerator in a container (to catch any drippings to avoid contaminating others foods)
    • In a leak-proof plastic bag in a sink of cold water (water must be changed for new cold water every 30 minutes)
    • In the microwave, following the microwave oven manufacturer’s instructions.

Never thaw your turkey by leaving it out on the counter. A thawing turkey must defrost at a safe temperature. When the turkey is left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, its temperature becomes unsafe. Bacteria can grow rapidly in the “danger zone” between 40°F and 140°F.

  • Handle Your Turkey the Right Way

Raw poultry can contaminate anything it touches with harmful bacteria. Follow the four steps to food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill—to prevent the spread of bacteria to your food, family, and friends at:

Cooking stuffing separately from the turkey in a casserole dish makes it easy to be sure it is thoroughly cooked. If you cook stuffing in the turkey, put the stuffing in the turkey just before cooking.

With either cooking method, use a food thermometer to make sure the stuffing’s center reaches 165°F. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165°F and may then cause food poisoning. If you cook stuffing in the turkey, wait 20 minutes after taking the bird out of the oven before removing the stuffing; this allows it to cook a little more. Learn more about how to prepare stuffing safely at:

Most of all heed all safe cooking advice and then enjoy the holidays with your family and friends. Happy Thanksgiving.