Thanksgiving Tips: Taking Care of the Turkey!

It’s almost Turkey Day! Do you know how to safely prep your Thanksgiving meal?

This is Public Health is brought to you in partnership with the Tuscarawas County Health Department.

It’s time to clear out the fridge, plan the menu, and make your Thanksgiving meal shopping list! offers these helpful hints when it comes to planning and preparing your main dish: the turkey!

How Long to Thaw?

The recommended way to thaw your turkey is in the refrigerator for 24 hours per every 5 pounds. You can also thaw the bird in a cold-water bath for 30 minutes per 1 pound. If you plan to thaw it in the microwave, read up on it in your owner’s manual.

Do I Wash it? Can I Stuff It?

Do not wash your turkey (or any other poultry, for that matter!). It’s also not recommended to stuff your turkey, as this requires the bird to cook longer, and getting an accurate temperature read all the way through might be difficult.

How Long Should I Cook It?

In an oven bag, the following is recommended by

  • 8-12 lb. turkey: 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  • 12 to 16 lb.: 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
  • 16-20 lb.: 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
  • 20-24 lb.: 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

When Is It Ready?

Your turkey is ready to consume when the bird has met the minimum temperature requirement: 165 degrees. Check for this temperature in the thickest part of the breast as well as the innermost part of the thigh. Any stuffing should also read 165 degrees.

As always, clean, separate, cook, and chill your foods appropriately. For more details on basic food prep, check out our September article Food Safety: A Culinary Tale. You can also visit or find them on Facebook for more information about the Tuscarawas County Health Department and their services.

Audrey Mattevi

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