It’s that time of year to start planning your family's Thanksgiving festivities. While planning your meal and making your guest list, be sure to avoid inviting foodborne illness to the table! Follow these important measures to promote food safety when you entertain and serve delicious food this holiday season.
1. Wash Your Hands
Frequent, thorough handwashing is a critical step in avoiding foodborne illness and illness from other sources—like shaking hands with relatives! Wash your hands before, during and after food preparation and always wash before you eat. You should lather and rub your hands together for at least 15 seconds (about the time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song).
2. Thaw Your Turkey Safely
Thaw one of three ways: refrigerator, cold water or microwave. Never thaw a turkey at room temperature. This method leads to the outer surface of the turkey falling into the “danger zone” of 40-140◦F where foodborne bacteria can multiply. Make sure you plan ahead—depending on the size of your turkey, it could take up to 5 to 6 days to thaw safely! Click here for more details on the safe way to thaw your turkey.
3. Prep Foods Safely
Clean your work surfaces and wash your hands after preparing the raw turkey. Use clean utensils and separate cutting boards for meats/poultry and fresh produce to avoid cross-contamination.
If you want to cook the stuffing inside the cavity of the turkey, be sure to stuff it just before cooking. Another important safety step!
5. Checking for Doneness
Do not rely on the color of the meat or a pop-up timer to decide when the turkey is done. Taking the temperature with a meat thermometer is the only reliable method to determine doneness. The turkey (and the stuffing in the cavity of the bird) is fully cooked at a minimum temperature of 165◦F. Allow the turkey to stand for 20 minutes before carving.
Don’t get too comfy on the couch before putting those leftovers away. Remember the “danger zone” for food temperatures? We don’t want all that yummy food going to waste! Follow these guidelines to serve the leftovers safely.
- Refrigerate leftovers in shallow containers within 2 hours. Discard food left out longer than 2 hours.
- All leftovers should be reheated to a temperature of 165◦F.
- Leftover gravy should be reheated to a rolling boil prior to consuming.
- Refrigerated turkey, stuffing, gravy, casseroles and vegetables should be consumed within 3-4 days.
- You can freeze leftover turkey and use it within 6 months.
- The golden rule: When in doubt, throw it out!!
7. Food Safety is important every day, not just on Thanksgiving!
Check out this app you can download for free on your Apple or Android device. It offers handy information on safe cooking temperatures and food storage.