MILLBURN, NJ - Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday that brings both family and friends together to count our many blessings. The Health Department would like to remind our residents about proper preparation and cooking of the traditional turkey dinner and its delicious trimmings.

To prevent a food-borne illness, the same precautions should be taken while preparing and cooking turkey just as if you were cooking any other fowl. Remember, thawing a frozen turkey takes time. Frozen or fresh turkeys can also bring lots of unwanted company (bacteria) to your kitchen and home. Make sure to rinse the turkey with cool water prior to placing it in your roasting pan. Always clean the preparation area or where ever any of the juices may have gotten into or on to. Lastly, wash your hands thoroughly and often especially prior to moving to the next task! 

If your turkey is frozen, thawing a turkey can be done either in the refrigerator or by submerging it in cold tap water. If you plan to thaw your turkey, make sure to allow 24 hours in a refrigerator for every four to five lbs. If you plan to thaw the turkey by submerging it in cold water, make sure to give it 30 minutes per pound and change the water every 30 minutes. Once you have thawed your turkey, remove all giblets inside the cavity and pat-dry with a disposable towel. To prevent food-borne illness, the USDA recommends stuffing should be cooked outside the turkey. However, if you decide to cook your stuffing inside the turkey, make sure the stuffing is loosely placed in the dry cavity right before putting your turkey into the oven. The USDA also recommends adding an extra fifteen minutes of cooking time to ensure the center of the turkey cooks thoroughly.

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Choose your roasting pan wisely! Make sure the roasting pan has sturdy handles and is large enough for the size of your turkey. Also, it is best to place the turkey on a roasting rack inside the roasting pan. Remember, selecting the right size roasting pan is key. A roasting pan that is too small can cause a grease fire in your oven. Another important factor is temperature. A turkey should never be cooked in an oven less than 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Lastly, preheating the oven between 325 and 375 degrees Fahrenheit will help to ensure the turkey reaches the correct cooking temperature. 

The USDA recommends roasting time for unstuffed turkey as following:
4 to 8 lbs. (breast only) - 1.5 to 3.25 hours
8 to 12 lbs. - 2.75 to 3 hours
12 to 14lbs. -3 to 3.75 hours
14 to 18 lbs. -3.75 to 4.25 hours
18 to 20lbs. - 4.25 to 4.5 hours
20 to 24 lbs. -4.5 to 5.0 hours

Always check the temperature of the turkey after roasting with a thermometer in the breast, thigh and wing to ensure the temperature is 165 degrees. Allow the turkey twenty minutes to rest after cooking and before carving then enjoy!