Tips on Cooking a Turkey - 8 News NOW

Tips on Cooking a Turkey

LAS VEGAS -- Thanksgiving is here and with it comes the excitement and energy of the holiday season.   Whether the bird is big or small there are a few tips to help make the holiday healthy and happy.

You can also find help at Butterball's Turkey Talk-Line, call 1-800-BUTTERBALL.


If you buy a fresh turkey, purchase it no more than two days in advance.

A frozen turkey should be defrosted in the refrigerator and allow 24 hours to defrost for every five pounds.  Never defrost a turkey on the kitchen counter.

Keep the turkey in the original bag to prevent raw juices from contaminating other food in the fridge.

If you thaw the turkey in a sink, keep cool water (70 degrees F) running over it and cook it immediately.


A turkey must reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F or above to ensure safety.  Use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the turkey (the breast) to ensure the bird has reached the correct internal temperature.

Use the following guidelines or per cooking instructions:

Size                             Cooking Time

8-12 pounds               2.75-3 hours

12-14 pounds             3-3.75 hours

14-18 pounds             3.75-4.25 hours

18-20 pounds             4.25-4.5 hours

20-24 pounds             4.5-5 hours

If your holiday dinner will be deep fried, some additional safety tips include:

Never leave the hot oil unattended and never allow children or pets near the cooking area.

Allow the oil to cool completely before disposing or storing it.

Wash your hands, utensils, equipment and surfaces immediately after they have come into contact with raw turkey.

Stuffed or not?

Because stuffing is such an important item, many cooks are not sure if they should cook the bird with the stuffing inside or separately.  The safest way to cook stuffing is to do so separately from the bird.  

If you decide to cook the stuffing inside the bird, the stuffing's temperature should be 165 degrees F.    


The best part of Thanksgiving is the leftovers.  To store and enjoy them safely takes just a little preparation.  Cut the leftovers into small pieces or slice them before storing them.  Place leftovers in the refrigerator in shallow containers.  Leftover turkey and stuffing should be used within four days (right through the long weekend!) and reheated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F or above.   If frozen, leftovers can be enjoyed past the holiday.

If you're planning to eschew traditional turkey for Thanksgiving, remember to cook poultry to 180 degrees F (chicken breasts to 170 degrees F); hamburgers and all cuts of pork to 160 degrees F; and beef, veal and lamb steaks, roasts and chops should be cooked to 145 degrees F.

As with all foods, wash your hands and utensils, bowls and other cutlery.  Use separate platters and utensils for raw and cooked meats and keep surfaces clean.

(This information has been provided by the Southern Nevada Health District.)

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