Safely cooking a turkey involves more than just shoving the bird into a preheated oven.

When preparing a turkey dinner for family and friends this Christmas, cooks should be aware of foodborne illness and prepare the bird carefully.

Food safety starts with the thawing of the turkey and continues through the consumption of the leftovers.


Turkeys are often purchased frozen. Follow the manufacture’s instructions for cooking from a frozen state.

If thawing a turkey before cooking, here are some tips:

Place the turkey in the refrigerator on the lowest shelf and on a tray. This prevents contamination of other foods from the juices produced from thawing.

Thaw in the refrigerator at 4 C (40 F) or lower.

Allow 24 hours for each 2.5 kg (5 pounds) to thaw. Remember: the bigger the turkey, the longer it takes to thaw.

Do not thaw your turkey in the kitchen sink or on the counter top at room temperature.


Always wash your hands using soap and warm water.

All surfaces, such as the table or cutting boards, utensils, and dishes must be sanitized using a bleach solution. The sanitizing solution is made with 5 ml (1 tsp) of unscented bleach in 750 ml (3 cups) of water.

Prepare the turkey in a separate area from other foods to avoid contact with any raw juices.


Turkey can be cooked by these methods: oven, barbeque, deep fried, and smoked.

Cook the turkey thoroughly in the oven or BBQ.

Use a probe thermometer to check the thickest part of the breast or thigh to make sure the internal temperature reaches a minimum of 82°C (180°F).

It’s not recommended to cook the stuffing in the turkey, as the stuffing is dense and tends to cook slowly when packed into a turkey.

Cook stuffing in a separate oven dish or on the stove top.

If the turkey is cooked with stuffing, use a probe thermometer to make sure the internal temperature is at least 74°C (165°F).

After Dinner

Do not leave turkey on the dinner table for more than two hours.

Cutting and deboning the meat from the cooked turkey will speed up the cooling process.

Food should be cooled from 60°C (140°F) to 20°C (68°F) within two hours. Then, food is to be cooled from 20°C (68°F) to 4°C (40°F) or colder within four hours.

Store leftovers on the upper shelf of the refrigerator or in the freezer.

Keep food wrapped or covered in shallow pans or dishes.

Clean all dishes, utensils, cutting boards, and food preparation areas with warm soapy water and a sanitizer. Use a sanitizing solution made with 5 ml (1 tsp) of unscented bleach in 750 ml (3 cups) of water.

Leftovers and Reheating

When reheating leftover turkey, make sure the internal temperature reaches 74°C (165°F). Use refrigerated leftovers as soon as possible, ideally within two or three days. You shouldn't reheat the same leftovers more than once.