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Turkey: Main Image

Preparation, Uses, & Tips

Wash turkey thoroughly in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Turkey is thoroughly cooked when it is no longer pink inside. Turkey should always be cooked until well done. For best results, use a meat thermometer inserted in the meatiest part of the turkey. Internal temperatures should be at least 165°F (74°C) when the turkey is done.

To make a visual check to see if turkey is done, pierce it with a fork. You should be able to insert the fork with ease, and the turkey juices should run clear.


Mix together 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; sprinkle over outside of whole turkey and inside body cavity; double or triple the quantity for larger birds. If you plan to stuff the bird, add stuffing loosely, immediately before cooking. Sew up or clip together edges of the body cavity after stuffing; tie or clip together the legs. Hook wing tips under back of turkey. Place turkey or turkey breast in a shallow pan, breast side up. Insert a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh. Roast in a preheated 325°F (160°C) oven until internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C). Total cooking time will depend on the size of the turkey; stuffed birds take longer. A 12-pound (5.4 kg) unstuffed turkey takes 4 to 4 1/2 hours. Let stand 10 minutes before carving.


Preheat broiler. Line broiler pan with foil for easy cleanup. Spray rack of broiler pan with nonstick cooking spray, if desired. Place turkey parts or boneless, skinless turkey pieces on a rack set in broiler pan. Position oven rack so that turkey pieces on broiler rack are 6 inches (about 15cm) from the heat source. Broil, turning over several times, until juices run clear and internal temperatures reflect properly cooked turkey. Boneless turkey takes approximately 4 to 5 minutes per side; bone-in pieces, depending on the size, take about 20 minutes per side. Use tongs to turn over turkey to prevent piercing and loss of juices during cooking.


Place turkey quarters or parts on a prepared grill with the rack about 8 inches (20cm) from the heat source. Grill, turning frequently (using tongs to prevent piercing skin), about 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until fork tender. Homemade or bottled barbecue sauce (or other glazes) may be brushed on turkey during the last 10 to 20 minutes of grilling time.

To test the temperature, place your palms above the coals or heat source at cooking level. If you have to remove your hands after 2 seconds, the temperature is hot; after 3 seconds, medium hot; and after 4 seconds, medium. More than 4 seconds indicates the grill has not reached cooking temperature.


In a shallow microwave-safe dish, arrange 1 cut-up turkey (or equivalent parts), skin removed, in a single layer, with meatier parts toward outer edge of the dish. Brush turkey with 1 tablespoon (15mL) melted butter or margarine. Cover with waxed paper and microwave on High for 6 to 8 minutes per pound (454g), rotating the dish 1/2 turn after 9 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt and let stand, covered, 5 minutes before carving. When microwaving a whole turkey, use the Medium setting.

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The information presented in the Food Guide is for informational purposes only and was created by a team of US–registered dietitians and food experts. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements, making dietary changes, or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2024.