While turkey is good the entire year, it is in the spotlight on Thanksgiving. To get your turkey dinner off to a good start, here are some tips for buying and cooking your bird.

Purchasing fresh or frozen

If fresh, buy your turkey one or two days prior to cooking and keep refrigerated until ready to cook.

Avoid pre-stuffed turkeys to avoid risk of bacterial growth. If frozen, keep in freezer until ready to thaw.


Turkey can be safely thawed in the refrigerator or under cold water.

Allow 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds when thawing in the refrigerator. Keep the turkey in original wrapper and place in a pan to catch any juices that may leak. A thawed turkey can remain refrigerated up to two days.

If thawing in cold water, allow 30 minutes per pound. Submerge securely wrapped turkey in cold tap water and change water every 30 minutes. Cook immediately after thawing.

Remove giblets once thawed and cook separately.


For optimum safety, stuffing a turkey is not recommended. If you choose to stuff your turkey, mix wet and dry ingredients just before stuffing the turkey. Fill the turkey cavities loosely and cook immediately. The center of the stuffing should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F.

A whole turkey is done when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Check temperature on the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. You should still check temperature with a meat thermometer on a turkey with a pop-up timer.

Let stand 20 minutes before carving to allow juices to set.

Enjoy the praise you receive for presenting the star of the show on Thanksgiving!

Keep the flavor of Thanksgiving going our recipes for turkey stock and turkey noodle soup.

For more tips visit U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Let’s Talk Turkey” guide.