Tips for prepping & cooking your Thanksgiving turkey


Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the harvest and, a time to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for, and for many of us, a time to gather with family and friends to share a meal. While we may all have different traditions as to what should be on the Thanksgiving menu, many tables will feature a roasted whole turkey at the centre. Here are some tips to help you successfully prepare and cook your Thanksgiving turkey.


If your turkey is frozen, leave the turkey in the original package and choose one of the following methods to thaw your turkey. Do not thaw turkey at room temperature.


This method is preferred, as it keeps the turkey meat cold until it is completely defrosted. Leave turkey in original plastic wrapper. Place turkey in refrigerator on a tray with sides (this is helpful to catch any liquid that escapes during defrosting). Allow 5 hours per pound (10 hours/kg) defrosting time.


Cover the turkey completely with cold water (the sink is a good place for this). Change water at least every hour – we recommend refreshing water every 30 minutes. Allow 1 hour per pound (2 hours/kg) defrosting time. Turkey should be cooked as soon as it is thawed and held in the fresh state for the minimum time possible to discourage bacterial growth.


• Wash hands thoroughly in hot soapy water before handling raw meat
• Remove plastic wrap from thawed turkey
• Remove neck and giblets from body cavity
• Rinse turkey well inside and out with cold water (optional)
• Thoroughly pat dry with paper towels
• Do not let raw meat juices touch ready-to-eat foods, either in the refrigerator or during preparation
• Do not put cooked foods on the same plate that held raw product
• Wash and sanitize any utensils, dishes or surfaces used for cutting turkey
• Keep cutting board and utensils in good repair as they can harbour bacteria inside cracks and crevices


There are different points of view on the best way to cook a whole turkey. To brine or not to brine (click here for brining tips)? To flip or not to flip? One of the most common methods is to place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Tent loosely with aluminum foil. Roast in 325ºF (160ºC) oven until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 180ºF (82ºC) for a stuffed turkey or 170ºF (77ºC) for an unstuffed turkey. For golden skin, remove foil tent for last hour of roasting.

You can find a helpful guide to cooking times depending on the size of your turkey on the Turkey Farmers of Ontario website.

When turkey is done, transfer to warm platter. Tent with foil and let stand for 20 to 30 minutes. This allows time for juices at the surface of the bird to distribute evenly throughout the meat. Remove all stuffing from cavity. Carve turkey. Enjoy!

Visit for more tips and tasty recipe ideas from the Turkey Farmers of Ontario.