Make sure the turkey is completely thawed, either in the
refrigerator or in a place where the air temperature is no higher
than 40 degrees F. A 20-pound turkey takes four to five days to thaw
completely in a refrigerator. The turkey should be placed on a tray
or pan to catch any juices that may leak. A thawed turkey can remain
in the refrigerator safely for one to two days. If the inner cavity
is still frozen or even partially frozen when you put the turkey in
the oven, the inside temperature will not be hot enough to destroy
It's safer to cook the stuffing
separately, but if you do stuff the bird, do so just before cooking
it, and stuff it loosely so it cooks thoroughly. If stuffing is
mixed the day before the meal, pre-mix only the dry ingredients.
Mixing moist ingredients ahead of time allows bacteria the
opportunity to grow.
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To check the temperature of the turkey, insert a meat thermometer
into the center of the thickest part of the thigh, breast or
stuffing. Temperatures should register as follows:
All leftovers need to be refrigerated immediately. If they are
left to sit for several hours at room temperature, disease-causing
bacteria can grow. Also, refrigerate stuffing and other leftovers
separate from the bird.
When eating leftovers, they need to be either very cold (directly
from the refrigerator) or very hot (at least 165 degrees).
Refrigerated turkey and stuffing should be used within three to four
days and gravy within a day or two.
Department of Public Health news release]