Preparing a Thanksgiving meal can be overwhelming. Check out these resources to help get ready for Thanksgiving and keep everybody safe.
Planning Ahead for Thanksgiving Day
Plan ahead to ease the countdown tension for your Thanksgiving meal.
- Countdown to the Thanksgiving Holiday | PDF | En Español PDF (Source: USDA)
- Tips for Planning Thanksgiving (Source: Iowa State University Extension and Outreach)
How to Prepare a Turkey
Everything you need to know for getting a turkey from the store to the dinner table with resources from the USDA.
- Let's Talk Turkey - A Consumer Guide to Safely Roasting a Turkey | PDF | En Español PDF
- Safe Thawing | PDF | En Español PDF
- Safe Cooking | PDF | En Español PDF
- Stuffing a Turkey | PDF | En Español PDF
- Basting, Brining, and Marinating | PDF | En Español PDF
- How to Safely Brine
Want to cook a turkey the day before or use a different method than roasting in the oven? Here is a couple resources to look at:
- How to Cook a Turkey the Day before Serving It
- How to Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey (includes a variety of ways on how to cook a turkey including oven bags, deep fat frying, grilling or smoking, etc.)
- Alternate Routes to the Table | PDF | En Español
Stuffing and Food Safety
It is important to handle stuffing safely and cook it to a safe minimum internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer. Find answers to common questions.
Serving Thanksgiving Food Safely
- Always wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Clean kitchen surfaces, dishes and utensils with hot water and soap.
- Cook foods thoroughly to safe minimum internal temperatures.
- Hot foods should be held at 140°F or warmer. Keep hot foods hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays. Cold foods should be held at 40°F or colder. Keep foods cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice. Otherwise, use small serving trays and replace them.
- Throw out any food left at room temperature longer than 2 hours; 1 hour in temperatures above 90° F.
Learn more about serving food safely from the USDA.
Traveling with Food
- If you plan to travel with food, keep hot foods hot (140°F or higher) by wrapping them in foil, and then in heavy towels. Or, carry them in insulated wrappers or containers designed to keep food hot.
- Place cold foods in a cooler with ice or freezer packs or an insulated container with a cold pack so they remain at 40°F or lower, especially if traveling over a half hour.
Upon arrival, place cold foods in the refrigerator. Place hot foods in an oven hot enough to keep the food at an internal temperature of 140 F or above; use a food thermometer to assure the food stays at a safe internal temperature. Plan to serve foods shortly after guests have arrived.
- Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for three to four days. If you store leftovers in the freezer, they will be of best quality within 2-6 month.
- When reheating leftovers, be sure they reach 165°F as measured with a food thermometer. Cover leftovers to reheat. This retains moisture and ensures that food will heat all the way through.
Learn more about keeping leftovers safe from the USDA.
Where to call for help on Thanksgiving Day
The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (English or Spanish) will be staffed with food safety specialists on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time to answer your turkey questions. It is open year-round Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.
Call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at:
Or send an Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org