I just found this highly useful turkey cooking guide at:
How to Cook Turkey
THAWING A TURKEY
What is the best way to thaw a turkey? There are three ways to safely thaw a turkey, but refrigerator thawing is recommended. Defrost the turkey in its original wrapper on a tray in the refrigerator 24 hours for every 5 pounds. Never thaw a turkey at room temperature.
You may also place the wrapped turkey in the sink and cover it completely with cold water. This method requires about 30 minutes per pound. If the wrapping is torn, place the turkey in another plastic bag, close securely, and then place in water.
For thawing, in the microwave, check the manufacturers instructions for the size of turkey that will fit into your oven, the minutes per pound and the power level to use for thawing. Cook immediately after thawing. See Table 1 for a more detailed outline of proper thawing times.
After thawing, get the turkey ready for cooking by following these steps:
WASH HANDS, UTENSILS, SINK AND EVERYTHING ELSE THAT HAS BEEN IN CONTACT WITH RAW TURKEY.
STUFFING A TURKEY
To stuff or not to stuff? This is an important question to ask because cooking a home-stuffed turkey can be somewhat riskier than cooking one not stuffed. If the stuffing is not cooked and handled properly, foodborne illness could occur. However, with careful preparation and the use of a meat thermometer to ensure that safe temperatures are reached, consumers can safely enjoy the traditional stuffing, inside OR outside the bird. Follow these safe stuffing tips:
Prepare Stuffing Safely: Mix the stuffing just before it goes into the turkey. Use only cooked ingredients in stuffing such as sautéed vegetables, cooked meats and seafood (oysters), and pasteurized egg products instead of raw eggs. If more convenient, the wet and dry ingredients can be prepared separately ahead of time and chilled. Mix the ingredients just before placing the stuffing inside the turkey or in a casserole.
Stuff The Bird Properly: Stuff both neck and body cavities. The turkey should be stuffed loosely, about three-quarters cup of stuffing per pound of turkey. This will help allow the stuffing to reach the proper 165 °F internal temperature whether the stuffing is in the bird or in a casserole. Use a meat thermometer to be sure of the temperature. The stuffing should be moist, not dry, since heat destroys bacteria more rapidly in a moist environment.
Cook At The Proper Temperature: The stuffed turkey should be placed immediately in a preheated oven set no lower than 325 °F. Cooking overnight in a "slow" oven is not recommended for stuffed or unstuffed turkey, since foodborne bacteria can form under these conditions.
Use A Meat Thermometer: Checking the stuffing temperature with a thermometer is essential. That is because even if the turkey itself has reached the proper internal temperature of 180 °F in the innermost part of the thigh, the stuffing may not have reached the correct temperature of 165 °F in its center. It is important to reach this temperature in all parts of the stuffing to be sure that foodborne bacteria are destroyed.
Prestuffed Poultry: Buying retail-stuffed whole poultry is not recommended because of the highly perishable nature of a previously stuffed item. Some USDA-inspected frozen stuffed poultry MUST be cooked from the frozen state to ensure a safely cooked product.
COOKING A TURKEY
Safety and Preparation Notes for All Methods:
Roasting Method: The open pan roasting method will consistently create a juicy, tender, golden brown, picture-perfect turkey.
Safety Notes for Smoking Turkey:
Microwaving Method: Always check the users manual for cooking recommendations.
Deep Fat Fried Whole Turkey: Some people enjoy fried whole turkey. This method of preparation requires special equipment and extra expense. The equipment needed includes a 40- or 60-quart pot with basket, burner and propane gas tank; a candy thermometer to measure oil temperature; and a meat thermometer to determine if the turkey is done. For added safety, have a fire extinguisher and pot holders nearby. Never leave the hot oil unattended, nor allow children or pets near it. Never fry a turkey indoors or in a garage or other structure. Avoid frying on wood decks, which could catch fire, and concrete, which can be stained by the oil.
To Safely Fry a Whole Turkey, Follow These Steps:
Within two hours after roasting, remove stuffing from turkey and carve the meat off the bones; then store in refrigerator or freezer. Gravy, stuffing and meat need to be stored SEPARATELY from each other. Wrap turkey slices and stuffing separately.
Refrigerator Storage: Use within three days.
Freezer Storage: Wrap in heavy foil or freezer wrap or place in freezer container. For optimum taste, use stuffing within one month and turkey within two months.
Safe Handling: In whole, ready-to-cook poultry, giblets are located in a bag in the abdominal cavity. They will not be from the original bird. Giblets may also be purchased separately as livers, hearts, or a combination thereof, and labeled accordingly. At home, immediately place giblets in a refrigerator that maintains 40 °F or below, and use within one or two days; or freeze at 0 °F or below. If kept frozen continuously, they will be safe indefinitely. For best quality, use giblets within three to four months of freezing.
Defrosting: There are three safe ways to defrost giblets and poultry containing them: in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave oven. Never defrost giblets on the kitchen counter.
Refrigerator Thawing: As a rule of thumb, whole poultry with giblets will take about 24 hours for every 5 pounds of weight to thaw in the refrigerator. A 1-pound carton of frozen turkey livers will take about 24 hours. Once defrosted, the giblets may be stored in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. During this time, if giblets are not used, they can be safely refrozen.
Cold Water Thawing: Leave the giblets or poultry containing them in the original airtight packaging or place in a leak-proof bag. Submerge the product in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes to make sure it stays cold. A 1-pound carton of livers should defrost in one or two hours.
Microwave Thawing: Cook giblets and poultry containing them immediately after microwave defrosting because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook. Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria that may have been present may not have been destroyed. Foods defrosted in the microwave or by the cold water method should be cooked before refreezing.
Cooking: Traditionally, chicken or turkey giblets are cooked by simmering in water for use in flavoring soups, gravies or poultry stuffing. Once cooked, the liver will become crumbly and the heart and gizzard will soften and become easy to chop. Cooked giblets should have a firm texture and their juices should run clear. Casseroles containing giblets should be cooked to 160 °F. Stuffing should be cooked to 165 °F. Chicken giblets are commonly fried or broiled. Leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours.
Accidental Cooking in Packaging: Some giblets are paper wrapped before being inserted into the poultry body cavity. In this case, there would be no concern if the giblets were accidentally cooked inside the bird to a safe temperature. If giblets were packed in a plastic bag, and the bag has been altered or melted by the cooking process, do not use the giblets or the poultry because harmful chemicals may have leached into the surrounding meat. If the plastic bag was not altered, the giblets and poultry should be safe to use as long as the meat is fully cooked.
This information has been reviewed and adapted for use in South Carolina by P.H. Schmutz, HGIC Specialist, and E.H. Hoyle, Extension Food Safety Specialist, Clemson University.
This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. (New 2/99, Rev 12/99).
The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service