AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – The best turkey for the holiday table is the one that’s been prepared safely. Angela Treadaway, an Alabama Extension regional food safety and quality agent, offers information on making sure your holiday turkey is also a safe turkey.

Stuffing the Bird

To prepare your stuffing, mix wet and dry ingredients separately and combine just before use. Place the stuffing inside the bird immediately before placing it in the oven. Loosely stuff the turkey, using roughly three-fourths of a cup of stuffing per pound of bird. Place extra stuffing in a greased casserole dish and continue cooking.

“No matter if you are cooking it inside or outside the bird, cook all stuffing and dressing recipes to a minimum temperature of 165°Fahrenheit,” Treadaway said.

Cooking to Temperature

“The single most important thing to know about cooking turkey, no matter the method, is that it must be cooked to the proper internal temperature as measured with a meat thermometer,” Treadaway said.

Inserting a meat thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and into the thickest part of the breast gives the most accurate reading. Temperatures should reach 165°F or higher in both the breast and the thigh.

Timetable for Roasting an Unstuffed Turkey

*Roasted at 325 °F in a thermal/conventional oven.
*Using an open pan method.
Pounds Time Estimate
8 to 12 pounds 2-3/4 to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3-3/4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 3-3/4 to 4-1/4 hours
18 to 20 pounds 4-1/4 to 4-1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds 4-1/2 to 5 hours


Timetable for Roasting a Stuffed Turkey

*Roasted at 325 °F in a thermal/conventional oven.
*Using an open pan method.
Pounds Time Estimate
8 to 12 pounds 3 to 3-1/2 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 -1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18 pounds 4 to 4-1/2 hours
18 to 20 pounds 4-1/4 to 4-3/4 hours
20 to 24 pounds 4-3/4 to 5-1/4 hours

Carving the Turkey

Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes. This allows the juices to set. This ensures that the turkey will carve more easily. It is helpful to use a clean cutting board with a well to catch excess juices. After removing all stuffing from the turkey cavity, use a sharp knife and begin carving the turkey.

Storing Leftovers  

Within two hours of carving, store leftover turkey in shallow containers and put in the refrigerator or freezer.

“If storing in the refrigerator, use cooked leftover turkey and stuffing within three-four day,” Treadaway said. “However, in the freezer, cooked turkey keeps for three to four months.”

When using leftover turkey, reheat thoroughly to 165°F or until hot and steaming.

More Information

For additional questions on cooking a safe turkey, contact your local Extension office and ask to speak to a food safety agent or learn more online at

Previous articleAlabama Medicaid Agency Seeks Public Comment On Proposed Amendments
Next articleAfter Executive Session, Commission Keeps Voting Districts Unchanged
As the Bibb County Coordinator for Alabama Extension, Matthew D. Hartzell coordinates the implementation of all Extension programs in Bibb County in many program areas. These program areas include 4-H and Youth Development, Animal Sciences, Food Safety and Quality, Forestry, Wildlife and Natural Resources, Human Nutrition, Diet and Health, Family and Child Development, Family Resource Management and Workforce Development, Commercial Horticulture, Home Grounds, Gardens and Home Pests, Farm and Agribusiness Management, and Community and Economic Development. Hartzell has served in his current position for 12 years and held primary program assignments in Community and Economic Development, Human Nutrition, Diet and Health, and Forestry Wildlife and Natural Resources.