Thanksgiving Food Safety Know How

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Having a turkey on your Thanksgiving table is a timeless American tradition. Use these Extension tips when purchasing, preparing, handling and serving your Thanksgiving turkey.


Thaw turkey quickly with the following methods:
Cool water: Submerge in sink or container of cool water, changing every 30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes per pound.
Microwave: Read manual instructions. Remove wrapping. Rotate several times. Cook turkey immediately after thawing. Allow 6 minutes per pound.
Cook: Use method if turkey is partially thawed. Allow at least 50% longer time to cook through.


  • You do not need to wash your turkey. Washing raw poultry won’t kill bacteria, but cooking to the proper internal temperature will. However, when washing, harmful bacteria like Salmonella and Campylobacter can be sprayed up to 3 feet on nearby surfaces.
  • To prevent the spread of bacteria, clean and sanitize utensils and work surfaces and wash hands after preparing raw poultry.


  • When the juices run clear or the turkey is a golden brown color it does not necessarily indicate the turkey is done. The only way to tell is by using a verified food thermometer to check the internal temperature.
  • Poultry, like turkey and chicken, must be cooked to an internal
    temperature of at least 165ºF for safety. Check temperature in three
    spots including:
    -Thickest part of the breast
    -Innermost part of the wing
    -Innermost part of the thigh
  • For safety, stuffing must also reach 165ºF checked in multiple places.
    This could cause the turkey to be cooked to over 165ºF.
    To avoid overcooking, consider making stuffing separately

More details and to access our Safe Plates handout, “Thanksgiving Turkey Food Safety.”