Holiday Turkey Tips

— Written By Eleanor Summers and last updated by

Now is the time to buy a food thermometer to take the temperature of the turkey you’ll be baking for the holidays. The single most important thing to know, no matter the preparation method, is that the turkey must be cooked to the safe minimum internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer. A stuffed turkey will take additional time to cook. In a conventional oven, a 12-14 pound unstuffed turkey roasting at 325°F will be cooked in 3 to 3 3/4 hours.

To take the guesswork out of determining when the turkey is done, insert a food thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh and in the wing and the thickest part of the breast. When the internal temperature measures 165°F in all parts of the bird, it is safe to eat. The stuffing should reach 165°F whether cooked inside the bird or in a separate dish. When the turkey is removed from the oven, let it rest 20 minutes for easier carving. It’s a good idea to remove the stuffing to a serving dish.

For a turkey less than 16 pounds, estimate one pound per serving. Allowing 1 1/2 pounds per person will give you ample leftovers. The safest way to thaw a frozen turkey is in the refrigerator. Thawing time is about 24 hours per 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. A fresh turkey should only be picked up one or two days in advance.

Food safety support is available from U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline, 1-888-674-6854 Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. EST and on Thanksgiving Day, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. EST. Find important tips on how to have a safe and tasty holiday feast, recipes, and fun activities for kids at