By Emily Raunig


Preparing a Thanksgiving turkey safely is important to ensure a delicious, enjoyable and safe meal for your family and guests.


Here are some tips for first-time turkey chefs!

  • Purchase a fresh turkey: If you prefer a fresh turkey, buy it a day or two before Thanksgiving. Make sure the turkey is properly refrigerated during transportation and immediately store it in the refrigerator upon reaching home.


  • Thawing the turkey: If you bought a frozen turkey, thaw it safely to avoid bacterial growth. The recommended method is to thaw it in the refrigerator. Let 24 hours of thawing time for every 4-5 pounds of turkey. Move the turkey on a tray/pan to catch any drips and prevent cross-contamination.


  • Proper handling: Always wash your hands carefully with soap and hot water before/after handling the turkey. Use separate cutting boards, utensils and plates for raw turkey to prevent cross-contamination with other foods.


  • Stuffing safety: It’s safer to cook stuffing outside of the turkey to ensure it reaches a safe temperature. If you prefer to stuff the turkey, do so just before cooking and make sure the stuffing reaches 165°F (74°C) to kill any bacteria.


  • Preparing the turkey: Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey cavities. Rinse the turkey both inside and out with cold water and gently pat it dry with paper towels. Season the turkey as desired.


  • Cooking temperature: The turkey should be cooked to 165°F (74°C) in the thickest part of the thigh, the wing and the largest part of the breast. Use a meat thermometer to accurately check the temperature. Avoid overcooking, as it can result in a dry turkey.


  • Safe cooking methods: There are various cooking methods for turkey, such as roasting, grilling or smoking. Ensure that the turkey is cooked in an oven or grill set to the appropriate temperature and follow the cooking time guidelines based on the turkey’s weight.


  • Proper storage: After the meal, refrigerate any leftover turkey within two hours. Cut the turkey into smaller pieces for quicker cooling and store it in shallow containers in the refrigerator. Use the leftover turkey within 3-4 days, or freeze it for later use.


Remember, practicing food safety is crucial to prevent foodborne illnesses. You can prepare your Thanksgiving turkey safely by following these tips along with enjoying a delicious and worry-free meal. Also, if you have any specific concerns about insurance coverage for your Thanksgiving events, contact us at, call 800.258.4219 or visit us at