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Preparing, stuffing and cooking your turkey

Turkey, like other poultry, can carry food poisoning bacteria.

Proper cooking will kill any bacteria present, but there is a risk of spreading the bacteria when you’re preparing the turkey.

1. Preparing your turkey

  • Handle your turkey as little as possible - Unpack it directly into a  roasting tray before placing it straight in the oven.
  • Don't wash the turkey - This can spread bacteria around your kitchen through drips, drops and splashes.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly - Before and after you handle your turkey, wash your hands with warm soapy water and dry with a clean towel.

2. Stuffing made easy

Stuffing is great at Christmas and whether it's breadcrumb, sausage meat or your own favourite recipe, remember to:

  • Prepare the stuffing just before cooking
  • Don’t overstuff your bird - use only 10% of the weight of the bird in stuffing. For instance, a 5kg turkey should have no more than 500g of stuffing.
  • Allow extra cooking time for stuffed birds. Use our turkey cooking calculator to find out how long.
  • Check that stuffing is piping hot all the way through before serving.

This only applies to birds cooked in electric, fan assisted ovens. For other oven types, we recommended that you cook your stuffing in a separate oven-proof dish.

3. Cooking your turkey

  • Preheat your oven to 180 degrees
  • While the oven is heating, melt a tablespoon of butter in a pan
  • Place the turkey on the roasting tray
  • Baste the turkey with the melted butter
  • Cover the whole turkey loosely with tin foil and place in the hot oven
  • Baste the turkey every hour with the juices coming out of it
  • About half an hour before the end of the cooking time, remove the foil to allow the turkey skin to brown and become crisp. If the skin is already brown, keep the foil on the turkey to keep it moist

4. How to tell when the turkey is cooked

Pierce the thickest part of the breast meat (between the leg and breast) with a clean fork or skewer.

  • Are the juices running clear?
  • Is there no pink meat?
  • Is the turkey is piping hot all the way through?

If the turkey is stuffed, allow extra cooking time and check that the stuffing itself is piping hot all the way through to the centre.

If you are cooking a boned and rolled turkey or a turkey crown, then follow the cooking advice of 20 minutes per pound plus an extra 20 minutes at the end.

Do keep in mind that even when ovens are at the right temperature, opening and closing the oven door, or having other items in the oven, may mean you need extra cooking time.

Whether stuffed, unstuffed, or boned and rolled, it's important to make sure the juices run clear, there is no pink meat left and the turkey is piping hot all the way through.

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