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Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Thanksgiving is next Thursday, and most of you will be cooking turkey. Health editor Janice Kerr is here today with safety tips to make sure your Thanksgiving is happy and healthy and free of salmonella. -- AP

Thanks, Anastasia! Too many people wind up sick because they don’t cook their poultry properly. The information below is from the USDA. Following these simple rules will ensure your bird is cooked properly.

A food thermometer should be used to ensure a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F has been reached to destroy bacteria and prevent foodborne illness.

Many variables can affect the roasting time of a whole turkey:

A partially frozen turkey requires longer cooking.

A stuffed turkey takes longer to cook.

The oven may heat food unevenly.

Temperature of the oven may be inaccurate.

Dark roasting pans cook faster than shiny metals.

The depth and size of the pan can reduce heat circulation to all areas of the turkey.

The use of a foil tent for the entire time can slow cooking.

Use of the roasting pan’s lid speeds cooking.

An oven cooking bag can accelerate cooking time.

The rack position can have an affect on even cooking and heat circulation.

A turkey or its pan may be too large for the oven, thus blocking heat circulation.


1. Set the oven temperature no lower than 325 °F. Preheating is not necessary.

2. Be sure the turkey is completely thawed. Times are based on fresh or thawed birds at a refrigerator temperature of 40 °F or below.

3. Place turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2- 1/2 inches deep.

Optional steps:
Tuck wing tips back under shoulders of bird (called “akimbo”). Add one-half cup water to the bottom of the pan. In the beginning, a tent of aluminum foil may be placed loosely over the breast of the turkey for the first 1 to 1-1/2 hours, then removed for brown-
ing. Or a tent of foil may be placed over the turkey after the turkey has reached the desired golden brown color.

4. For optimum safety, cook stuffing in a casserole. If stuffing your turkey, mix ingredients just before stuffing it; stuff loosely. Additional time is required for the turkey and stuffing to reach a safe minimum internal temperature (see chart below.)

5. For safety and doneness, the internal temperature should be checked with a food thermometer.
The temperature of the turkey and the center of the stuffing must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F. Check the temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

6. Let the bird stand 20 minutes before removing stuffing and carving.

APPROXIMATE COOKING TIMES (325 °F oven temperature)
4 to 6 lb breast........ ..1-1/2 to 2-1/4 hrs.
6 to 8 lb breast....... ...2-1/4 to 3-1/4 hrs.
8 to 12 lbs........................2-3/4 to 3 hrs.
12 to 14 lbs......................3 to 3-3/4 hrs.
14 to 18 lbs................3-3/4 to 4-1/4 hrs.
18 to 20 lbs................4-1/4 to 4-1/2 hrs.
20 to 24 lbs......................4-1/2 to 5 hrs.

8 to 12 lbs........................3 to 3-1/2 hrs.
12 to 14 lbs......................3-1/2 to 4 hrs.
14 to 18 lbs......................4 to 4-1/4 hrs.
18 to 20 lbs................4-1/4 to 4-3/4 hrs.
20 to 24 lbs................4-3/4 to 5-1/4 hrs.

Finally, when it comes to leftovers, always store turkey and stuffing in separate containers and make sure you refrigerate leftovers as soon as the meal is over.

Thanks, Janice! And a tip from me as well: make sure you buy a big enough turkey to have leftovers. That turkey sandwich the next day is always so delicious! 

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Tell us for a chance to win a book from our Book Club Friday guest author.  -- AP


Liz said...

Timely advice, which I hope the cook of my holiday meals reads.

Harvey Burgess said...

Hmmm, this is giving me an idea for a murder victim eating an improperly cooked bird...
My Thanksgiving will be book-signings! Here's hoping lots of people pick up my book at those Black Friday sales :)

Men Incontinence Pants said...

Awesome..! This is pretty interesting to learn. I am so happy to find it.

Barbara D. said...

These are great tips! One year our turkey wasn't completely thawed, so we had to keep it in the oven longer than planned & our dinner was delayed. Now we let it thaw completely for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator before rinsing with cold water inside & out.

Jane R said...

Great tips. I love to bake a turkey but we usually order our bird precooked and I make all the sides. Of course it's always huge, so there's plenty of leftovers. Sometimes I think my family likes that part the best!