Thanksgiving is a time for families to gather and enjoy each other - not suffer from food poisoning! Here are a few quick tips to keep your family healthy:
- The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator. It takes about 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of turkey, not including the day you cook it. A 20-24 pound turkey would take 5-6 days to thaw. Check out Turkey 101 for faster thawing options.
- For optimum safety, do not stuff your turkey. Place stuffing in a separate baking dish or pan to cook.
- USDA recommends an oven temperature no lower than 325°F for cooking a turkey along with using a food thermometer to make sure the thickest part of the turkey reads 165°F. A 20-24 pound turkey may take about 5 hours to cook.
- Avoid cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils when handling raw turkey. Wash items that have touched raw meat with warm soap and water, or place them in a dishwasher.
- Refrigerate leftovers within two hours to prevent bacteria from growing on the food. Eat leftovers in the refrigerator within 3-4 days. Use the freezer to store leftovers for longer periods.
- Do not overfill your refrigerator, as it causes it to work too hard and may not keep it at 40°F or below.
Healthy Holiday Safety Tips
- Clean out your refrigerator the week before the event to make room for thawing items and storing leftovers.
- Use a refrigerator thermometer to check that your refrigerator is 40°F or below.
- Frequently wash your hands with water and soap for 20 seconds.
- Simplify the day by preparing foods the day before if possible.
- Do not prepare food when you are ill.
- Use a calibrated food thermometer.
- Store leftovers in shallow containers to decrease cooling time. This prevents food from spending too much time at unsafe temperatures.
- Keep leftovers in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs if the food is traveling home with a guest who lives more than two hours away.
- Thanksgiving Food Preparation and Food Safety Tips, Nebraska Extension
- Let's Talk Turkey, Hablemos Acerca del Pavo, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- Thanksgiving, Foodsafety.gov
This newsletter was written in 2020 and has been peer-reviewed.