University of FloridaSolutions for Your Life

Download PDF
Publication #FAR8714

Preparing a Safe Turkey Feast1

Amy Simonne and Donna Davis2

Figure 1. 
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Great family feasts mark many wonderful occasions, whether a holiday, a birthday or celebrating life's achievements. Turkey is often the centerpiece of such a feast. And while many consider it to be a holiday treat, it's really a great year-round choice. The USDA recommends a few "turkey basics" to keep your family safe from foodborne illnesses.

If you buy a fresh turkey, cook it within two days. If you prefer a frozen turkey, you can defrost the turkey in the refrigerator. Expect it to take about 24 hours for every five pounds of bird. Another safe alternative for defrosting frozen turkey is to use cold water, but change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Never thaw the turkey on the kitchen counter at room temperature. Once thawed, cook the bird immediately. Make sure to clean and sanitize the areas where raw turkey juice may have been.

What about the stuffing? Currently, experts recommend that the safest way to cook stuffing is separate from the turkey. The stuffing must be cooked to 165ºF. And if you have any leftover turkey, cut it into small pieces, cool it, and store it in the refrigerator within two hours. Use the leftover turkey and stuffing within three or four days.

While you want your family feasts to be memorable, using precautions to keep your family safe from foodborne illness will help make sure you remember the feast for the right reasons!

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website at

To listen to the radio broadcast:


United States Department of Agriculture. (2007). Fact sheets: Poultry preparation. Retrieved July 31, 2007, from



This document is FAR8714, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 284. Original publication date April 2009. Reviewed January 2015. Visit the EDIS website at In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified.


Amy Simonne, associate professor and Donna Davis, senior producer, Family Album Radio, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.