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Thanksgiving Turkey Safety Tips: How to Safely Prepare a Turkey

Written by Natasha Rentas - Team Village Connect

A man removes a cooked turkey from the oven.

Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude, family, and, of course, turkey! Cooking a turkey is a breeze, but preparing a turkey for showtime is no easy feat. Things can get hectic in the kitchen on a normal Thursday, and accidents happen, but by planning ahead and being prepared, you can help protect your loved ones from food-borne illnesses, kitchen accidents, and fires throughout the turkey preparation process. We have some turkey safety tips to help our Village Community out! Read on to learn some essential Thanksgiving safety tips to ensure your holiday feast is both delicious and safe!

The Importance of Thawing Your Turkey

Your turkey's journey to your table on Thanksgiving starts by preparing to thaw. It's important that you allow your turkey the time it needs to properly thaw to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Not to mention that thawing will speed up cooking time since a frozen turkey will take ages to cook. The safest way to defrost your turkey is through refrigerator thawing or cold water thawing.

Refrigerator thawing involves placing your turkey on a tray in your refrigerator. If you opt to thaw your turkey in the fridge, you should plan to let your turkey thaw for 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey. So, if you have a big bird around 20 pounds, you should start defrosting your turkey on Sunday at the latest.

Cold water thawing is for those of us who forget to pull the turkey out of the freezer until the night before (we've all been there, so we're not judging!). If you forget to relocate your turkey in a timely manner or you simply don't want to deal with a slowly melting turkey hanging out in your fridge for a week, then plan to submerge your turkey in cold water for about 30 minutes per pound of turkey. Your 20-pound bird should be swimming for about twenty hours prior to cooking time.

How to Safely Handle Your Turkey

Handling a raw turkey is not the same as handling raw cookie dough. Take precautions to avoid cross-contamination by making sure you're washing your hands before and after you touch raw turkey, even if it's just for a second. No one wants to be sick on Thanksgiving because you touched a side dish in the middle of doing turkey prep and you neglected to wash your hands first! On that note, don't use the same cutting board for your turkey and your green beans, and make sure you clean any surfaces that come into contact with raw turkey super well. Keep in mind that there's no need to rinse your turkey beforehand since cooking the turkey should kill off any bacteria.

Turkey Cooking Temperatures and Stuffing Safety Tips

Whether you choose to deep fry, grill, roast, brine, or bake your turkey, it is universally agreed that the safest internal temperature for a perfectly cooked turkey is 165°F (74°C). You can check that the turkey reaches this temperature evenly by using a trusty meat thermometer in different parts of the turkey.

If you like your turkey stuffed, make sure that you have the stuffing ready right before you put the turkey in the oven. Don't overstuff the turkey, but stuff it loosely so that it cooks evenly. Like the turkey itself, the stuffing should also reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). Don't forget to have a fire extinguisher handy in case of an emergency.

Safely Carving Your Turkey

At last, the moment arrives when your turkey emerges from the oven, cooked to a crisp 165°F (74°C). It's tempting to carve into the turkey right away, but good things come to those who wait just a little bit longer. You're going to want to let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before you carve it to allow the juices to redistribute. Take a breather with the turkey. Afterwards, it's carving time. Make sure that you're carving on a stable surface to avoid any knife-related accidents, and now you are finally ready to enjoy the bird of your labor with your family and friends.

Nothing beats a homemade Thanksgiving meal surrounded by friends and family. By following these Thanksgiving turkey tips, you're bound to have a happy and safe Thanksgiving. Don't worry; just plan ahead and be prepared!

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving from your friends at Village Connect!

About Our Village Contributor

A headshot of woman with a plaid shirt.

Natasha Rentas

Team Village Connect- Marketing and Customer Care Specialist

Natasha Rentas is a writer, communicator, and multimodal content creator from Orlando, FL. She is currently finishing up her B.A. in writing and rhetoric at UCF, and she hopes to continue grad school under UCF's rhetoric and composition, M.A. program. She wants to research and work with science, public health, and crisis communications to connect and unite people through language. When she is not writing or studying, Tasha can be found behind a lens or hanging out with her dog, Mucca.

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How to Prepare a Turkey for Thanksgiving

All content on our blog, including text, graphics, images, and any other material, is intended solely for informational purposes. Despite our passion for health, we're not doctors or dietitians, and we don't wear lab coats to work. Our advice isn't a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have about your health.

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