As you’re preparing your Thanksgiving menu, leave the bacteria and viruses that can cause foodborne illness off your list. Follow these tips to make sure these unexpected guests don’t turn up to your dinner table.
- Before purchasing your turkey, make ample space in your refrigerator. There should be enough room to circulate cold air and keep food at 40 F or below.
- Plan your menu and know when to buy items for the best quality. Purchase a fresh turkey 1 – 2 days before you’re ready to cook. If you buy a frozen turkey, make sure you have enough time to thaw it. A whole turkey takes about 24 hours per 4 – 5 pounds to thaw in the refrigerator.
- Keep fresh fruits, vegetables and other ready-to-eat foods above and separate from raw turkey. Refrigerate perishables as soon as you get home from the store.
For the birds
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
- Thaw your frozen turkey in the refrigerator — it’s the safest way and will give you the best finished product.
- If you’re thawing in cold water, keep it in its original wrapper and make sure water can’t leak through. Submerge the turkey in cold tap water, and change the water every 30 minutes.
Cooking and preparing
- Use a food thermometer to verify each food is cooked to the proper internal temperature. Generally, a whole turkey should reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 F at the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
- Carve the turkey on a clean cutting board, and wipe down kitchen surfaces before and after cooking.
- Keep cooked turkey and other temperature-sensitive food within the temperature danger zone (140 F – 40 F) for less than 2 hours before chilling leftovers.
Storing and using leftovers
- Cool leftover foods in shallow containers within 2 hours of cooking, and put them in the refrigerator or the freezer.
- Eat cooked leftover turkey, stuffing and gravy within 3 – 4 days, or freeze cooked turkey for up to 3 months.
- Reheat leftovers until hot and steaming. Bring gravy to a boil before serving, and turkey should reach an internal temperature of 165 F.