Turkey FUNdamentals: Top Questions for Cooking a Turkey
By Diane Van, Food Safety Education Staff Deputy Director, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Meat and Poultry Hotline has been answering consumer questions related to Holiday meals for over 25 years. Of course, we get the usual questions about buying, thawing and roasting a turkey. But we also get some of the same not-so-typical questions each year. You may have had these questions yourself.
How long will it take to cook two turkeys at the same time?
The cooking time is determined by the weight of one bird—not the combined weight. Use the weight of the smaller bird to determine cooking time. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the smaller bird first and then check the second bird. A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. When cooking two turkeys at the same time make sure there is enough oven space for proper heat circulation.
How long will it take to cook a turkey weighing over 25 lbs?
To cook a large turkey use the Timetables for Turkey Roasting for an unstuffed turkey which can be found in Turkey Basics: Safe Cooking. Add 10 minutes per pound for turkeys over 24 pounds. We don’t recommend stuffing a turkey over 24 pounds. Make sure you have a heavy pan large enough to hold the turkey. Be sure to make sure there is enough space in the oven for proper heat circulation.
If a turkey has a “pop-up” temperature indicator do I still need to use a thermometer?
Pop-up temperature indicators are constructed from a food-approved nylon. The indicator pops up when the food has reached the final temperature for safety and doneness. Pop-up temperature indicators have been produced since 1965 and are reliable to within 1 to 2 °F if accurately placed in the product. But it is also suggested that the temperature be checked with a conventional food thermometer in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast to ensure safety.
Is it safe to cook a turkey from the frozen state?
Yes, it is safe to cook a turkey from the frozen state. The cooking time will take at least 50% longer than recommended for a fully thawed turkey. Remember to remove the giblet packages during the cooking time. Remove the packages carefully with tongs or a fork.
Can I call the Meat & Poultry Hotline on Thanksgiving Day?
Yes! The Hotline will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Thanksgiving Day. Call us toll-free at 1-888-674-6854. (Our usual hours are Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Eastern Time.) You can also ask a question in English or Spanish at AskKaren.gov, available 24 hours a day.