Time the turkey to perfection this Christmas!

Date: December, 2010


Christmas is the season for friends, family, food and good times. Here at safefood we want to make sure you have a safe and tasty, festive turkey. This handy guide gives you advice on buying, storing, defrosting and cooking your turkey.

Buying and Storing

Turkey leafletIf you are buying a fresh turkey, buy it as close to Christmas as possible, bring it home quickly and store it in the fridge. If you are buying a frozen turkey, get it into the freezer without delay and keep it there until you are ready to defrost it.

Remember to store any raw meat and poultry on the bottom shelf of the fridge to prevent meat juices from dripping on to other foods and spreading germs around the fridge.

To keep the food in your fridge safe, aim to keep the coldest part of the fridge (usually the bottom shelf above the salad bin) at 5°C or below.

You can make more room by storing drinks (except milk and fruit juices) in a cool place or summer coolbox.

Don’t wash your turkey. This can spread germs to your sink and kitchen surfaces.


Make sure your turkey is fully defrosted before cooking. You’ll know it’s completely thawed when the body is soft, the legs can be moved and there are no ice crystals inside the cavity.

The safest way to defrost your turkey is on the bottom shelf of the fridge on a plate or tray.

It will take at least 24 hours to defrost every 2-2.5 kgs of turkey, so it can take up to 3 days to defrost a frozen 7.5kg turkey! Make sure you check the weight on the label and give yourself enough time.

Cooking your turkey

cooked turkey graphicTo cook your turkey to perfection:

  • Remember to handle your turkey as little as possible.  Thoroughly wasy your hands and any surfaces that come in contact with raw turkey
  • Preheat your electric fan-assisted oven to 180°C and place the turkey breast up on a roasting tray
  • If you’re stuffing the turkey, loosely pack the stuffing (weighing no more than 10% of the weight of the bird) in the cavity
  • Cover the turkey with foil and baste it every hour
  • Remove the foil for the last half hour to brown the skin
  • Allow the turkey to rest for half an hour before carving. Cover the bird with foil during this period

Note: Our cooking advice is based on electric fan-assisted ovens only.

Before serving

Before serving, ensure your turkey is properly cooked by looking for the following:

  • Make sure there is no pink meat left
  • The juices should run clear when the thickest part of the leg and breast meat are pierced with a clean fork or skewer
  • Check that the meat is piping hot all the way through – it should be steaming
  • In cavity-stuffed turkeys, the stuffing should also be piping hot at the centre as this is the slowest point to cook in stuffed turkeys

For more information about cooking your turkey to perfection, including our advice on using different types of ovens, visit our Christmas section or please phone the helpline (NI) 0800 085 1683 (ROI) 1850 40 4567

Turkey leftovers

As with any food you cook and don’t eat straight away, it is important that your Christmas leftovers are stored and handled safely.

Follow our advice and use our delicious recipes to make the most of your leftovers:

  • Leftovers should be cooled as quickly as possible
  • Cover your leftovers and put them in the fridge within 2 hours of cooking
  • Leftovers should be eaten within 3 days
  • Always reheat leftovers until they are piping hot all the way through
  • Never reheat food more than once

Try our exciting Christmas leftover recipes, such as turkey and leek pie

Turkey cooking timer

Use this turkey cooking timer to calculate your turkey’s cooking time. It’s easy.

Can't find your turkey's weight?

If the exact weight of your turkey is not on the table, try our text service instead. Please note our cooking times are based on electric fan-assisted ovens only, preheated to 180°C.