November is the busiest month of the year for the US Department of Agriculture Meat & Poultry Hotline. During the week of Thanksgiving(November 25), they get lots of questions about how to safely cook a turkey. Here are answers to some of the more common questions.

How can I tell when the turkey is done?

Whether you roast, brine, deep fry or smoke your turkey, always use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the meat. You won’t overcook your turkey, and you can ensure it has been cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F to destroy bacteria and prevent foodborne illness. Check the temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. If the turkey is stuffed, the stuffing must also reach 165 °F.

How long does it take to cook a turkey?

Use the Turkey Roasting Chart to determine how long to cook your turkey. These times are approximate and based on fresh or thawed birds at a refrigerator temperature of 40 °F or below.

Is it safe to cook a turkey from the frozen state?

Yes, the cooking time will take at least 50 percent longer than recommended for a fully thawed turkey. Remember to remove the giblet package before cooking your turkey (there are a lot of funny stories about first time turkey cookers who forget to do this!). Remove the giblets carefully with tongs or a fork and use the giblets for the gravy or dressing per your favorite recipe.

Can I cook two turkeys at the same time?

Cooking two turkeys of about the same weight does not double the roasting time. Cooking time is determined by the weight of one bird. Just make sure there is sufficient oven space for proper heat circulation.

What about storing leftovers?

Bacteria spread fastest at temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F, so chilling food safely reduces the risk of foodborne illness. Discard any turkey, stuffing, and gravy left out at room temperature longer than 2 hours. Divide leftovers into smaller portions. Refrigerate or freeze in covered shallow containers for quicker cooling.
Use refrigerated turkey, stuffing, and gravy within 3 to 4 days or freeze it. Use frozen turkey and stuffing leftovers within 2 to 6 months for best quality. Reheat to 165 °F or until hot and steaming. Gravy should come to a rolling boil.

Can I call the Meat & Poultry Hotline on Thanksgiving Day?

Yes! The Hotline will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Thanksgiving Day. Call toll-free at 1-888-674-6854. (Our usual hours are Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Eastern Time.) You can also ask a question in English or Spanish at AskKaren.gov, available 24 hours a day

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Comments

Really great (and useful) tips!

\Remember to remove the giblet package before cooking your turkey ...\

I'm embarrassed to say I forgot to do this one year! Thankfully, it turned out ok, but my family has yet to let me forget it :)

Great tips! And here's a couple more to help keep your kitchen area clean and safe while you cook.

For an inexperienced cook (and even experienced cooks!) wrestling with a large bird on Thanksgiving can get pretty messy in your cooking area. Just be sure to keep the area wiped clean with soap and hot water or a disinfectant spray as you go, and after your turkey is in the oven.

Make sure your hands are washed well before grabbing any seasonings, foil containers, etc. You don't want to leave any trace of raw meat juice from your hands onto the staples in your cupboard or countertop.

Have the oven ready so that when the stuffing is ready, you're prepared to stuff the bird and get it right into the oven to start cooking. When the bird is cooked, and after sufficient resting time, remove all the stuffing from it right away.

I hope these additional tips help and wish everyone a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks for all of these tips..I am from the Philippines. turkey is not really usual to our dishes. But occasionally, I've got visitor from US (my cousin's boyfriend).

Thanks a lot for sharing this!!! it would really help me a lot..

Hi, thanks for this really useful information. I always assumed that cooking two birds at once would double the cooking time, but you've cleared this one up for me. If cooking in the microwave, does this apply? I know this isn't the traditional method of cooking, but have heard of people having success with this.

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