Cooking Poultry
group of poultry

Cooking Poultry

Every year in Boulder County, dozens of home kitchens become a source of foodborne illness associated with the improper washing, cooking, displaying, and/or storage of poultry.

Because of the size of raw turkeys in particular, it is very important to take special care in preparing and thoroughly cooking turkeys.

Raw and undercooked turkey has microbes like Salmonella and Campylobacter which can make families very sick on average within 12 hours to 3 days after the meal is consumed.


  • Do not thaw a frozen bird on the counter.
  • Allow one day for every 5 pounds of meat in the refrigerator to defrost the turkey.
  • Thoroughly wash everything that the raw turkey and its juices have touched with warm soapy water. That includes utensils, cutting boards, countertops, hands, etc.

Cooking Instructions

  • Cook the turkey to at least 165º F to be sure all bacteria are killed.
  • Put a clean, accurate meat thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey to test for doneness. Dark meat, being drier than white, meat will be slower to fully cook. (Many people prefer turkey cooked to higher temperatures for taste and texture.)

Dressing: If you are serving dressing (stuffing) with the turkey, we recommend that it be cooked in a separate pan. If you choose to cook the dressing inside the turkey, be certain both the turkey and dressing have reached 165º F or above.


  • All leftovers must 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 to 41º F or colder, cover them.

TIP: 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.

Contact Us

Food Safety Program

Main: 303-441-1564
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