It is very important to carefully prepare and cook your turkey, because raw and undercooked turkey can have germs, such as salmonella, which can make people sick. That's why you must thoroughly wash and correctly cook your turkey.
Thoroughly wash everything that the raw turkey and its juices have touched. That includes all the utensils, cutting boards and counter tops.
Then, wash your hands very well with warm water and soap, and dry with paper towels, so the germs from the turkey won't get on any other food or surface that you touch.
Cook the turkey to 165º F to be sure all bacteria are killed. Put an accurate meat thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey to test for doneness. (Many people prefer turkey cooked to higher temperatures for taste and texture.)
Dressing: If you are serving dressing with the turkey, we recommend that it be cooked in a separate pan. If you do choose to cook the dressing inside the turkey be certain both the turkey and dressing have reached 165º F or above.
All leftovers need to be refrigerated within two hours after the meal. Break the leftover turkey into small pieces, put them into a shallow pan, and refrigerate, uncovered, until it is cool. When they are completely cool, cover them.
For the best quality of leftover turkey, keep it in the refrigerator for only 3 to 4 days. Dressing and gravy quality changes after 2 days. Reheat gravy to a rolling boil (165º F) before serving again.
To store turkey or gravy longer, wrap well and freeze.
For more information call:
King County Cooperative Extension Service
USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline:
1-800-535-4555 (10:00 AM - 4:00 PM EST)