This year instead of traveling over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house, you’ve invited family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving at your home.
You’re looking forward to enjoying awesome food and drink, great conversation and maybe even a football game or two. You’re hoping that your guests will leave with great memories. The last thing you want is for everyone to remember a holiday filled with tummy aches – or worse.
Thankfully, there are some very steps you can take to prevent a foodborne illness from hitting your Thanksgiving guests.
- Thawing the turkey – You should thaw your turkey in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water that is changed every 30 minutes, or in the microwave.
- Refrigerator thawing: Allow approximately 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at 40 °F or below. Place the turkey in a container to prevent the juices from dripping on other foods. After the turkey is thawed you can keep it in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days.
- In a sink of cold water: Allow about 30 minutes per pound. Place the turkey in a leak-proof plastic bag to prevent cross-contamination then submerge the wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.
- Microwave thawing: Follow the manufacturer’s instruction when defrosting a turkey. A turkey thawed in the microwave must be cooked immediately.
- Handling the turkey – Bacteria from your raw turkey can contaminate anything that it touches. To prevent the spread of bacteria, thoroughly wash your hands, utensils, and work surfaces.
- Cooking the stuffing – Whether you cook the stuffing inside or outside the bird, you must cook it to a minimum temperature of 165º F as measured by a food thermometer. Cooking your stuffing in a casserole dish is the safest option.
- Cooking the turkey – Set the oven temperature to at least 325°. Place the completely thawed turkey with the breast side up in a roasting pan that is 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep. Cook the turkey until it reaches 165°F. You can check the bird’s temperature by inserting the thermometer in the thickest parts of the breast, the thigh and the wing joint.
- Handling leftovers – To prevent bacteria from growing on the food, refrigerate leftovers within two hours.
- To prevent refrigerated food from spending too much time at unsafe temperatures (between 40 °F to 140 °F), store leftovers in shallow pans or containers to reduce the cooling time.
- Take the stuffing out of the turkey, and refrigerate the stuffing and the meat separately.
- Don’t eat leftovers that have been in the refrigerator for longer than 3 or 4 days. If you want to keep the leftovers longer, store them in the freezer.
- If you send leftovers home with your guests who live more than two hours away, the food should be kept in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs.
Following these food safety tips will help you and your guests have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving.