The Farm Online  
Cooking Tips and Kitchen Safety

Handling & Cooking Tips

Chicken and turkey rank among America's most popular foods, which is why knowing how to handle and prepare poultry is more important than ever.

We've divided this area into concise sections to make your search easy. If you don't find what you're looking for here, try our Frequently Asked Questions page.

  Chicken Storage Guidelines
Chicken Thawing Instructions
Chicken Cooking Timetable
Turkey - How much is enough?
Turkey Storage, Handling and Thawing
Roasting the Turkey - Tips and Timetable
Stuffing Know-How and Recipe
Carving a Turkey
Safe Handling of Poultry and Safe Kitchen Checklist

Chicken Storage Guidelines

Store fresh, raw chicken in its original unopened wrapper at 40°F or less, in the bottom, coldest part of the refrigerator. Store it here no longer than one to two days, and be sure to cook or freeze raw chicken by the "use by" date on the label.

For longer storage, immediate freezing is recommended. To prevent freezer burn, wrap chicken in foil or other freezer wrap. Separate parts into individual meal-size portions before freezing, so you can later avoid defrosting more chicken than you need. Refreezing chicken is never recommended.

Cooked chicken should be wrapped securely before refrigerating or freezing. For optimum quality, follow the storage guidelines provided here.

Storage Guidelines





1 - 2 days

12 months


1 - 2 days

9 months


1 - 2 days

3 - 4 months


Good thru (if unopened) "use or freeze by" date

3 - 4 months


3 - 4 days

4 months


1 - 2 days

6 months


1 - 2 days

1 - 3 months

Chicken Thawing Instructions

Chicken can be conveniently and safely thawed in the refrigerator. Allow approximately three to nine hours for parts, and 24 hours for a whole chicken.

If time is short, you can defrost chicken in the microwave, or place poultry in an airtight bag to thaw in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes to keep it cold; cook the chicken immediately.

Do not thaw chicken at room temperature - even if frozen inside, the surface of foods can warm up quickly, allowing bacteria to grow.

Chicken Cooking Timetable

Cooking Time







3 - 5 lb. broiler 180°F 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours

6 - 8 lb. roaster


1 1/2 - 2 1/4 hours




6 - 8 oz.


30 - 40 minutes




4 oz.


20 - 30 minutes




4 - 8 oz.


40 - 50 minutes




5 - 7 oz.


30 - 40 minutes




3 oz.


20 - 30 minutes




6 oz. patty


20 - 30 minutes


Whatever method you use - roasting, frying, simmering, grilling or microwaving - be sure to finish cooking once it is started; interrupted or partial cooking may encourage bacterial growth in foods. Keep all hot foods hot (140°F to 160°F) before and during serving. Cover and refrigerate leftovers in a shallow container as soon as the meal is over. Do not leave cooked foods out at room temperature for more than two hours.

A meat thermometer is your most accurate way to determine if the bird is done. For a whole chicken, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone.

Stuffing in the inside of a chicken should reach at least 165°F. For poultry parts, check the internal temperature of several pieces, to ensure all chicken is thoroughly cooked. If you do not have a meat thermometer, cook stuffing separately, and check for doneness by piercing the meatiest part of the chicken with a fork. The fork should insert with ease, and the juices should run clear.

We recommend a minimum oven roasting temperature of 350°F for chicken. The cooking chart in the box indicates safe internal temperatures and approximate roasting times for fresh or thawed chicken.

Turkey - How Much is Enough?

Exactly how many people will that bird feed? How do you estimate? Start with our general guidelines, below, but if Uncle Jeff has a notoriously huge appetite, or if you want lots of leftovers, buy larger.

How Much Turkey?



8 - 12 lbs.

8 to 10

12 - 16 lbs.

10 to 14

16 - 24 lbs.

14 to 20

24 - 28 lbs.

20 to 24

Turkey Storage, Handling and Thawing

Store raw turkey in its original, unopened wrapper at 40°F or below. For optimum quality, cook fresh whole turkey within 3 to 4 days of purchase. Immediate freezing is recommended for longer storage (up to 12 months).

Cook refrigerator-thawed turkey within 1 to 2 days. A turkey thawed by the cold water or microwave method should be cooked immediately.

Following are important safety tips...

  • Never partially cook turkey. Finish the cooking once it is started.
  • Remove stuffing from roasted turkey after 20 minutes' standing time.
  • Don't leave cooked turkey or stuffing at room temperature more than two hours. Cut all meat from the bones before storing. Refrigerate leftovers as soon as the meal is over.
  • Cooked poultry may be kept refrigerated for three to four days in a covered container. Stuffing and gravy should be used within one to two days.
  • Hands, countertops and utensils such as knives and cutting boards must be washed thoroughly with hot, soapy water after preparing raw poultry and before use with other foods.

Turkey Thawing Timetable




8 - 12 lbs.

1 - 2 days

4 - 6 hours

12 - 16 lbs.

2 - 3 days

6 - 9 hours

16 - 20 lbs.

3 - 4 days

9 - 11 hours

20 - 24 lbs.

4 - 5 days

11 - 12 hours

Microwave thawing: Check your microwave manufacturer's instructions for defrosting turkey.
*Change water every 30 minutes.

Roasting the Turkey - Tips and Timetable

One of the best roasting methods is also the simplest...

  • Remove wrapper from turkey. Remove hock lock from legs, pull neck and giblets from cavities. Rinse turkey inside and out with cold water. Pat dry.
  • If using stuffing, fill cavities lightly with the mixture - don't press it in! Stuffing expands as it cooks.
  • Skewer cavity openings to secure stuffing. Tie legs together or return to hock lock; twist wing tips under the back.


  • Place turkey, breast up, on a rack in shallow roasting pan at least 2 inches deep. Heat oven to 325°F.
  • Brush turkey with vegetable oil, melted butter or margarine to prevent drying. Insert meat thermometer into thickest part of inner thigh, not touching the bone.
  • Cover turkey loosely with a tent of aluminum foil to prevent splattering and overbrowning. For additional browning, uncover turkey for the last half hour of roasting.
  • Roast at 325°F using the roasting timetable as a guideline. The turkey is cooked when the meat thermometer reads 180° to 185°F at the thigh, or 170° to 175°F at the breast, and center of stuffing reaches at least 165°F. The drumstick should twist easily in its socket, and juices should run clear, with no traces of pink when pierced with a fork.
  • For easy slicing, let turkey stand 20 minutes after removing from oven.

Turkey Roasting Timetable

Roasting times will vary due to oven type, oven temperature and temperature of turkey before roasting. Begin checking turkey for doneness about 1 hour before end of recommended cooking time.




8 - 12 lbs.

2 1/2 - 3 1/2 hrs.

3 - 4 hrs.

12 - 16 lbs.

3 - 4 1/2 hrs.

3 1/2 - 5 hrs.

16 - 20 lbs.

4 - 5 hrs.

4 1/2 - 5 1/2 hrs.

20 - 24 lbs.

4 1/2 - 6 hrs.

5 - 6 1/2 hrs.

24 - 28 lbs.

5 1/2 - 7 hrs.

5 1/2 - 7 1/2 hrs.

Stuffing Know-How and Recipe

Stuffing cooked inside the bird has the ultimate flavor, but an unstuffed bird cooks more quickly. Some considerations for both methods...

When stuffing your turkey (try our recipe), be sure to use a meat thermometer to assure that a safe internal temperature of 165°F is reached. Mix wet and dry ingredients and stuff loosely just prior to roasting. Do not mix ingredients or stuff the bird ahead of time.

To save time and ensure safe, complete cooking - without the risk of overcooking your turkey - bake your stuffing in a covered casserole, not inside the bird.

Foster Farms Stuffing Recipe
1 1/2-lb.   loaf day-old bread or 3 quarts plain dry stuffing
3 cups   chopped onion
2 1/2 cups   chopped celery
1/2 cup   butter or margarine
1 tsp.   salt
1 1/2 tsp.   poultry seasoning
1/4 cup   chopped parsley
1. Tear bread into 1/2-inch pieces, or use 3 quarts plain dry stuffing; set aside.
2. Sautè onion and celery in butter or margarine just until tender.
3. Add to bread along with salt, poultry seasoning and parsley. Toss lightly until well mixed.
4. Place in two buttered, covered casserole dishes or stuff loosely into neck and body cavities of turkey.
CASSEROLE METHOD: Bake covered at 325°F for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 10 minutes longer. Drizzle with juices from the turkey roasting pan for additional flavor and moistness. Makes 8 to 10 cups stuffing after baking.
BAKING INSIDE TURKEY METHOD: Use 1/2 to 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of bird weight; stuff neck and body cavities loosely — stuffing will expand as it cooks.

Carving the Turkey

These instructions create the most attractive cuts, so you can even carve the bird at tableside. Bring the turkey to the table on a platter. You'll need a large cutting board with wells around the edges to catch juices during dark meat carving.



Removing the legs...
With a long, extra-sharp carving or chef's knife, remove legs by slicing down and back to where the thigh attaches to the bird. Cut through the joint until leg comes off; remove to cutting board.

Separating the drumstick...
With skin side up, knee facing you, separate the drumstick from the thigh, slicing through the joint - which is closer to the drumstick bone than the thigh.

Slicing the drumstick...
Drumstick may be served whole or cut in thin slices on all four sides, parallel to the bone. Cut away thigh meat in strips parallel to the thigh bone.



Steady the turkey...
Steady the turkey by holding the fork against the breastbone. Just above the wing, make a long, deep horizontal base cut straight into the turkey as far as the knife will go.

Downward diagonal slices...
Make downward diagonal slices, with each slice a little higher up on the breast, and end at the base cut. Slices will fall away onto the platter. When the first side is done, repeat on the other.

Removing the wings...
To steady the bird, leave wings on until you've carved both sides of the breast. To remove the wing, slice into the joint which attaches it to the body, carving as much meat from the body as possible.


Safe Handling of Poultry and Safe Kitchen Checklist

At Foster Farms we've always been committed to freshness, quality and the good health of our customers, so of course we want you to have a safe kitchen. Like other raw foods, poultry should be handled with care to assure safe food preparation in the home. Wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and between cooking tasks, and dry them with a clean towel.

Countertops and utensils such as knives and cutting boards must be washed thoroughly with hot, soapy water after preparing raw poultry, and before use with other foods. As an added precaution, washed cutting boards may be rinsed with a dilute, freshly made chlorine bleach solution (1 tablespoon household bleach per quart of water)

Adapted from an Audits International checklist, the following should give you an idea of how safe your kitchen is. The more items you check off, the less chance you and your family have of contracting a food-borne illness.

Safe Kitchen Checklist

Temperatures -

  • Set your refrigerator to chill foods down to 40°F or less.
  • Always cook foods to the proper internal temperature.
    (Temperatures should be taken directly after cooking; continue cooking if necessary.)

  Beef, ground


  Beef, roasts/steaks


  Casserole (rice/pasta/potato)








  Microwaved foods








    Bone-in parts


    Whole (at the thigh)


  Reheated leftovers


Leftovers -

  • Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of cooking.
  • Store leftovers in small portions for quicker chilling.


Cross-contamination -

  • Clean your sink before using it for food preparation.
  • Wash utensils that have come in contact with the floor or other contaminated areas.
  • Use only clean utensils to open packages and cans of food.
  • Wash all produce thoroughly.
  • Store washed produce in a new, clean container or bag.
  • Wash utensils used for tasting before reusing.
  • Store raw ingredients on refrigerator shelves below ready-to-eat foods.
  • Refrigerate raw meats and poultry on a plate to prevent contamination of refrigerator shelves.
  • Wash cutting boards and countertops with a mild bleach solution after cutting raw foods.
  • Place cooked foods on a clean plate instead of returning them to the plate or marinade that held raw foods.


Hand-washing -

  • Clean dish towels and sponges often and leave to air dry.
  • Always wash your hands with hot water and soap before handling food.
  • Wash after handling or switching between raw meats, poultry, seafood or vegetables.
  • Wash after using the restroom.
  • Wash after using the phone.
  • Wash after handling garbage or dirty dishes.