For many people, it just isn't the holidays without the grand bird taking center stage at festive meals. And rightly so. Today's turkey is not only rife with historical significance (think Thanksgiving and Pilgrims), it is also a source of many nutrients.


Nutrition Notes

Chock-full of high quality protein, turkey is lean and provides calcium, iron, zinc and other vitamins and minerals. Eaten without the skin, its low in saturated fat and even contains small amounts of heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats.

Part* Calories (kcal) Fat (g) Cholesterol (mg) Protein (g)
Boneless, skinless turkey breast 112 2 59 23
Turkey breast cutlet 106 2 59 22
Turkey thigh (bone-in) 105 1 59 24
Turkey thigh cutlet 124 6 71 20
Ground turkey (thigh) 124 5 71 20

*per 90 gram (approx 3 oz.) serving

Source: Turkey Farmer's of Ontario


While a whole roast turkey is a holiday staple, turkey is also available in easy to manage cuts for meals year round.  Look for turkey parts such as breasts (bone in or boneless), thighs, drumsticks, cutlets, tenderloins, strips, cubes and chops.


Look for a turkey that is fresh and moist-looking, not dried out or frostbitten.

The packaging should be clean and undamaged. If buying from a grocery store, look for a "sell by" date on the label. This date is the last day the turkey should be sold by the retailer. The unopened turkey should be safe to use for 1 or 2 days after the "sell by" date. Purchase from a grocery store or butcher that you trust.


When storing fresh turkey, remove giblets and refrigerate in covered container for use within 2 days. Whole turkeys can be frozen for 1 year, parts for 6 months.

Once the turkey is thawed, treat as a fresh turkey and do not refreeze until cooked.

Cooked turkey may be stored in a covered container, plastic bag or aluminum foil for up to 4 days in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer.

After cooking, keep the turkey hot, above 140 F or refrigerate below 40 F. Do not leave turkey at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Turkey labeled as "previously frozen" must be kept refrigerated and used within 48 hours of purchase.


Thawing: Never thaw a turkey at room temperature. Leave turkey in the original package and follow one of these methods to thaw your bird.

  1. Refrigerator Method: This method is ideal as it keeps the meat cold until it is completely defrosted. Place your turkey on a tray in the refrigerator, allowing 5 hours per pound (10 hours/kg) defrosting time.
  2. Cold Water Method: In a large container, cover the turkey completely with cold water. Change water at least every hour, allowing 1 hour per pound (2 hours/kg) defrosting time.
  3. Frozen Prestuffed Turkeys: If you have purchased a frozen, prestuffed turkey - DO NOT THAW. Doing so would allow potentially dangerous bacteria to overgrow and cause illness. Cook from frozen state and check product label for further instructions.

Brining: For some, brining their turkey by soaking it in salted water, makes it juicier and better seasoned. Brining provides a "moisture cushion" for the breast meat by absorbing water during the process. This means that it remains moist even if it overcooks by 10 degrees or so. You must have a large receptacle (such as a stockpot) to soak the bird and a place to keep it chilled overnight. While the brining does increase juiciness, it also firms and seasons the flesh in a way that some might not enjoy. The only way to find out if it suits your fancy is to try it!

Overnight Brine: Remove the giblets, neck and tail piece and reserve for gravy. Dissolve 1 cup table salt or 2 cups kosher salt in 2 gallons cold water in a 6-8 gallon stockpot or clean bucket. Submerge the bird in the solution and refrigerate 8 to 12 hours.

Quick Brine: Follow the instructions for overnight brine, doubling the amount of salt in the solution. To quick brine outside of the refrigerator, place 4 or 5 large, clean, frozen ice gel packs in the brine with the turkey. Cover the container or cooler and store it in a cool spot (below 30- 40F)

Brining Notes: After brining is complete, remove the turkey from the brine and rinse well, inside and out, under cold running water. Pat the skin and body cavities dry with paper towels before proceeding.

The salty juices of a brined turkey may ruin the stuffing. Instead, fill the turkey with seasoning vegetables such as carrots and bake the stuffing on the side. A brined turkey will cook faster by about 30 minutes as the absorbed water conducts heat and therefore expedites cooking.

Cleaning and Food Safety:

  1. Remove plastic wrap from thawed turkey if using frozen.
  2. Remove neck and giblets from body cavity.
  3. Rinse turkey well inside and out with cold water. Thoroughly dry with paper towels.
  4. Always wash hands thoroughly in hot soapy water before preparing foods and after handling raw meat.
  5. Do not let raw meat juices touch ready-to-eat foods either in the refrigerator or during preparation.
  6. Do not put cooked foods on the same plate that held the raw product.
  7. Wash utensils, dishes and surfaces used for cutting turkey with hot, soapy water. For an extra measure of safety, rinse using a sanitizing solution of one capful of chlorine bleach in a sink full of warm water. Thoroughly rinse surfaces, dishes and utensils with hot water.

Basic Roasting: Follow these instructions or refer to any general all-purpose cookbook such as The Joy of Cooking, Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook or Julia Child's The Way to Cook. Many recipes call for seasoning the turkey with unsalted butter and a variety of herbs and spices, usually just salt and pepper. Others swear by cooking at lower temperatures or covering tightly with foil. Experiment with techniques and find the one the best suits your palate!

  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Invest in an oven thermometer to ensure proper cooking temperature.
  2. If you wish to stuff your turkey, do so lightly and just before it goes into the oven -- never stuff the turkey the day/night before. Stuffing can be prepared separately in a covered baking dish. Place in the oven during the last half hour of the roasting time.
  3. Place clean turkey, breast up, on a rack in a shallow pan.
  4. Insert oven-safe meat thermometer into the thickest part of the inner thigh just above but not touching the thighbone.
  5. Roast uncovered or loosely covered with foil. If you choose to baste your turkey, limit the number of times you open and close your oven as this will lengthen the cooking time. Once an hour should be sufficient.
  6. Check the table below for roasting times. Remove turkey when done and let stand 15 to 20 minutes to allow the juices to set. Remove stuffing to a separate bowl.

Roasting times:

Weight Roasting times in hours (approximate) at 325F   Barbecue times in hours medium heat
  stuffed unstuffed unstuffed

6-8 lbs(3.0-3.5 kg)

3 to 3-1/4 2-1/2 to 2-3/4  
8-10 lbs (3.5-4.5 kg) 3-1/4 to 3-1/2 2-3/4 to 3 1-1/2
10-12 lbs(4.5-5.5 kg) 3-1/3 to 3-3/4 3 to 3-1/4 1-3/4
12-16 lbs(5.5-7.0 kg) 3-3/4 to 4 3 1/4 to 3-1/2 2
16-22 lbs(7.0-10.0 kg) 4 to 4-1/2 3-1/2 to 4  











Your turkey is done when:

  • A meat thermometer in the inner thigh reads 180F for a stuffed turkey or 170F for one that is unstuffed.
  • It is a golden colour and the skin has pulled back from the tips of the drumsticks. When cooked to perfection, the meat and juices may have a pink tinge.
  • Make sure that your meat thermometer is not touching the thigh bone as this will give a false temperature reading


Where does one start? Roast turkey, barbecued turkey, turkey sausage, turkey hash, turkey tetrazzini, turkey pot pie, turkey soup, turkey sandwich, turkey divan, turkey Dijon, turkey burgers, turkey kebabs, turkey stew, smoked deli turkey slices, turkey roulade and more.

Easy Ways to Use Up Those Leftovers or Just for Everyday:


  • Cut turkey into small cubes and add to frittatas, omelettes or breakfast hash.
  • Try turkey sausage instead of the usual for special morning meals.


  • The tried and true turkey sandwich. Layer turkey, tomatoes, lettuce and some light mayonnaise onto whole grain bread.
  • Toss cubes of cooked turkey cubes into a green salad.
  • Make a batch of your favourite turkey soup and take to work in a reheatable container. A sure-fire dose of comfort for a winter's day.
  • For a twist on the turkey sandwich try the recipe below for Smoked Turkey Wraps. Leftover turkey slices can easily be substituted for deli turkey (if buying deli turkey, look for sodium-reduced).


  • Toss cooked turkey cubes into pasta or use as a pizza topping.
  • Use in stews, casseroles such as turkey tetrazzini or as an ingredient in a hearty chili.
  • Slice turkey lettuce wraps for appetizers.
  • Try cooking boneless, skinless turkey breast or cutlets for a change from the usual chicken.
  • Use lean ground turkey in soups, stews, and casseroles.
  • Use ground turkey to make meatballs and meatloaf.
  • Stir fry turkey strips with broccoli florets and red pepper chunks, season with low-sodium soy sauce.
  • Grill turkey kebabs with cubes of turkey breast, green and red peppers, mushrooms and onions. Marinate first with your favourite flavour combination.

More Information

Turkey Tip: Purchase one pound of turkey per person. This will ensure you have enough to feed holiday guests and still have some leftovers for your turkey soup.

Turkey Farmers of Canada

National Turkey Federation (U.S.)

Turkey Farmers of Ontario

Far-Out Fowl: Want to really impress your guests? Then check out the various websites that tell you how to make "Turducken." Turducken is a 15-16 pound semi-boneless turkey stuffed with duck and chicken with layers of delicious stuffing between each bird that feeds up to 20.

Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme's version is one of the most famous. Curious but not quite up to the culinary challenge? You can even get one shipped ready-to-cook.