Food Safety advocate Bill Marler provides the best food safety tips for purchasing, storing, and preparing turkey 

Each year, nearly 48 million Americans suffer from foodborne illness and one of the main culprits is turkey! Food safety advocate Bill Marler, of Marler Clark, the Food Safety Law Firm, has a few simple tips to help keep your Thanksgiving a joyous occasion.

“There’s a lot of misinformation about the best way to prepare, defrost, and store turkey. Even though it’s a common food, it’s something of a mystery to the average home cook. Unfortunately, when turkey isn’t handled with care, it can cause some pretty serious issues.” Let the turkey take center stage at your Thanksgiving celebrations for all the right reasons with a few straightforward safety tips.

Purchase and Storage

Be sure to pick out your turkey toward the end of your shopping trip and have it bagged separately. Keep turkey frozen immediately after purchase. Do not leave turkey out anywhere.


Turkey is safe indefinitely when frozen. It is when the thawing process begins that bacteria has a chance to grow. Below are the three safest ways to properly thaw a turkey:


  • Plan ahead. Thawing in the fridge takes a significant amount of time to be done properly. Allow one day of thawing for every 4 lbs of turkey.
  • Thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before cooking.
  • Be sure to keep it in a tray to prevent any juices from leaking.

Cold Water

  • Allow 30 minutes of thawing for each pound of turkey.
  • Keep it in a leak-proof plastic bag to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Completely submerge the wrapped turkey in cold tap water, changing water every 30 minutes.
  • Cook turkey immediately once completely thawed.


  • Check your owner’s manual for the minutes per pound and the power level to use for thawing turkey.
  • Be sure to remove all wrapping before microwaving and place in a microwave safe tray to catch juices.
  • Cook turkey immediately once completely thawed.


You must use a food thermometer when cooking turkey. A safe internal temperature is 165°F. Set your oven no lower than 325°F and make sure the turkey is completely thawed before cooking. Place the turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2 ½ inches deep.

While it’s best to cook stuffing separately in a casserole, it can be safely cooked inside the turkey. The trick is to not pack in the stuffing—it should be placed loosely with plenty of space in the cavity—and adjust the cooking time accordingly.

It is also very important to remember to thoroughly wash hands and utensils before, during, and especially after working with raw poultry. To prevent cross-contamination, use separate cutting boards for raw turkey and other foods. Make sure to refrigerate any leftovers within two hours of preparation. Do not let turkey or any food fall into the temperature danger zone (between 40°F and 140°F). In other words, don’t take a three hour car ride with frozen or cooked turkey in the trunk!

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of foodborne outbreaks such as E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, and Listeria. The lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of foodborne illness infections and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. The law firm has brought lawsuits against such companies as Jack in the Box, Dole, Taco Bell, Peanut Corporation of America, ConAgra, Subway, Wal-Mart, and Jimmy John’s.