10 Tips for Enjoying a Safe Thanksgiving Meal

With a little care and preparation, your Thanksgiving meal can be a safe one. Here are some tips to help you.

1. Turkeys must be kept at a temperature that is safe during the thawing. Temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees are considered the danger zone where bacteria can multiply.

2. There are three safe ways to thaw a turkey. The first is in the refrigerator. Allow one day for each 4-5 pounds the turkey weighs. The second is in cold water. Wrap the turkey in a leak-proof plastic bag and keep in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes for each pound of turkey. The third way is in a microwave oven. Follow the manufacturers directions to thaw your turkey.

3. When cooking, set the oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees. A stuffed bird requires a longer cooking time than one that is not stuffed. For maximum safety, cook the stuffing separately. If you do decide to stuff the turkey, stuff it loosely. Use about �¾ cup of stuffing per pound. Cook the turkey immediately after stuffing.

4. According to the USDA, ” A food thermometer should be used to ensure a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit has been reached to destroy bacteria and prevent foodborne illness.”.

5. A turkey will cook faster in an oven bag with less mess to clean up afterwards. Check the directions that come with the oven bag. A meat thermometer may still be inserted through a whole in the oven bag.6

6. Let the bird stand 20 minutes before removing the stuffing and carving the turkey.

7. Do not keep food hot longer than 2 hours. It is best to remove all stuffing from the turkey and refrigerate it. Slice the turkey breast, however wings and legs may be left whole. Refrigerate the meat and also any side disk leftovers.

8. Reheat leftovers thoroughly to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Reheating a whole turkey is not recommended.

9. You may leave cooked turkey or leftovers in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. If you freeze them, you may keep turkey and stuffing for 4-6 months.

10. If you have any last minute questions or problems, the USDA operates a meat and poultry hotline to answer consumer questions about safety. The hotline will be open Thanksgiving Day from 8am to 2pm Eastern Standard Time. The hotline number is 888-674-6854.

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