Safe Turkey Preparation and Handling

Many celebrations involve the cooking and serving of a turkey for friends and family. We have some ‘turkey tips’ to help you and your loved ones enjoy a safe and healthy meal without uninvited guests (like food poisoning bacteria) that will spoil the fun.

Carefully follow these food handling tips when preparing a whole turkey.

turkey dinner


Whole turkeys are often purchased frozen. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cooking from a frozen state. If you choose to thaw your turkey before cooking, here are some tips.

  • Do not thaw your turkey in the kitchen sink or on the counter top at room temperature.
  • Thaw in the refrigerator at 4°C (40°F) or lower. Allow 24 hours for each 2.5 kg (5 pounds) to thaw. Remember the bigger the turkey, the longer it takes to thaw.
  • Place the turkey in the refrigerator on the lowest shelf and on a tray. This prevents cross contamination of other foods from the juices produced from thawing.


  • Always wash your hands using soap and warm water before handling food and after handling raw turkey.
  • All surfaces such as the table or cutting boards, utensils and dishes can be sanitized by  using a bleach and water solution. The sanitizing solution can be made by mixing 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) of unscented bleach with 1 litre (4 cups) of clean water.
  • Prepare the turkey in a separate area from other foods to avoid cross contamination with any raw juices.


Cook your turkey thoroughly to make sure the internal temperature reaches a minimum of 82°C (180°F). To check the internal temperature, use a probe thermometer. Insert the probe thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey (e.g. breast or thigh).

It’s not recommended to cook the stuffing inside the turkey as the stuffing is dense and tends to cook slowly when packed into a turkey. Instead, cook stuffing in a separate oven dish or on the stove top. However, if you choose to cook the turkey with stuffing inside, use a probe thermometer to make sure the internal temperature is at least 74°C (165°F).

After Dinner

  • Do not leave turkey on the dinner table at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
  • Cutting and deboning the meat from the cooked turkey will speed up the cooling process
  • Store leftovers in the fridge or freezer on upper shelving.
  • Clean all dishes, utensils, cutting boards and food preparation areas with warm soapy water first, rinse all items and then sanitize the surface and item. Prepare a sanitizing solution by mixing 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) of unscented bleach with 1 L (4 cups) of clean water. Remember do not mix soap and bleach together!

Leftovers and Reheating

When reheating leftover turkey, make sure the internal temperature reaches a minimum of 74°C (165°F). Use refrigerated leftovers as soon as possible, ideally within two or three days. You shouldn't reheat the same leftovers more than once. 

If you have any questions, you can contact us at 519-258-2146 ext. 4475.

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