University of Illinois Extension

Let's Talk Turkey

If turkey is on the menu for your Thanksgiving dinner, keep the meat safe with these tips for thawing, baking, and storing.


  • In the refrigerator, thaw one day for every five pounds of meat.
  • Submerged in cold water, change water every 30 minutes.
  • In the microwave, cook immediately after thawing.


  • Bake at 325°F to an internal temperature of 180°F or until joints are loose and juices run clear, not pink.
  • Roasting time depends on how much the bird weighs:
Time Weight
8-12 pounds 2-3 hours
12-14 pounds 3-3 1/2 hours


  • Store leftover turkey in the refrigerator, and use within 3 to 4 days.
  • Store leftover gravy and dressing in the refrigerator and use within one to two days.
  • Freeze leftovers that cannot be used right away.