Find the answers to some of the frequently asked questions about turkey:
- What size of turkey should I buy?
- How do I thaw a frozen turkey?
- Should I wash my turkey before cooking it?
- I forgot to thaw the turkey. What can I do?
- How do I know when my turkey is done?
- Is a pop-up thermometer reliable?
- Is pink turkey meat safe to eat?
- What happens if I forgot to take the giblet packages out?
- Where can I call for help on Thanksgiving Day?
Allow 1 pound of fresh or frozen turkey per person.
It is recommended to thaw turkey in the refrigerator. Place the frozen bird in its original wrapper in the refrigerator (40°F or below). Allow approximately 24 hours for each 4–5 pounds of turkey. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1–2 days.
Learn more about 3 ways to thaw a turkey from USDA.
Do not wash or rinse your raw turkey. Avoid washing or rinsing a turkey (or any eggs, meat or poultry products for that matter) before cooking. Juices can transfer bacteria onto kitchen surfaces, other foods and utensils. If you must wash or rinse your turkey because of brining or other marinating processes, be sure to thoroughly clean and then sanitize all kitchen surfaces to eliminate the risk of cross-contamination.
There are several options if you forgot to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator:
- In Cold Water: Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound. Wrap your turkey securely, making sure the water is not able to leak through the wrapping. Submerge the wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do NOT refreeze.
- In the Microwave Oven: Microwave thawing is safe if the turkey is not too large. Check the manufacturer's instructions for the size of turkey that will fit into your microwave oven, the minutes per pound, and the power level to use for thawing. Cook immediately after thawing.
- From Frozen: It is safe to cook a turkey from the frozen state. The cooking time will take at least 50 percent longer than recommended for a fully thawed turkey and less if it is partially frozen. Remember to remove the giblet packages during the cooking time. Remove carefully with tongs or a fork.
Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey. A whole turkey is safe cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F throughout the bird. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. If you have stuffed your turkey, the center of the stuffing must also reach 165°F.
No. It is recommended that you also check the internal temperature of the turkey in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast with a food thermometer. The minimum internal temperature should reach 165 °F for safety. Learn which type of food thermometer you should use and how to use them from the USDA.
The color of cooked poultry is not always a sure sign of its safety. Only by using a food thermometer can one accurately determine that poultry has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F throughout the product. Turkey can remain pink even after cooking to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F. The meat of smoked turkey is always pink. Learn more about pink turkey meat from the USDA.
Giblet package and the turkey neck may be found inside the turkey cavity and/or tucked under the flap of skin at the front of the breastbone. When the turkey has sufficiently defrosted, the packages can be removed carefully with tongs and/or forks during cooking.
- If the giblets were paper wrapped before being inserted into the turkey cavity at the plant-which is the case with most whole birds-there is no safety concern if they cook completely inside the bird.
- If giblets were packed in a plastic bag, and the bag has been altered or melted by the cooking process, do not use the giblets or the turkey because harmful chemicals may have leached into the surrounding meat. If the plastic bag was not altered, the giblets and turkey should be safe to use.
The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (English or Spanish) will be staffed with food safety specialists on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time to answer your turkey questions. It is open year-round Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.
Call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at:
Or send an Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Let's Talk Turkey - A Consumer Guide to Safely Roasting a Turkey, United States Department of Agriculture.
- Thanksgiving Toolkit to Prevent Foodborne Illness: Talking Points, United States Department of Agriculture.