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Safety Tips for a Healthy Holiday

As Thanksgiving approaches, cooking the traditional turkey dinner gives rise to anxieties and questions. A few simple steps will not only ease your holiday fears, but ensure a delicious and a safe meal for you, your family, and your friends. The following information may help you prepare your special Thanksgiving meal and help you countdown to the holiday.  

Thawing Your Turkey

There are three ways to thaw your turkey safely — in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave oven.

In the Refrigerator (40 °F or below)
Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds

4 to 12 pounds- 1 to 3 days
12 to 16 pounds - 3 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds - 4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds - 5 to 6 days

Keep the turkey in its original wrapper. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. If necessary, a turkey that has been properly thawed in the refrigerator may be refrozen.

In Cold Water
Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound

4 to 12 pounds - 2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds - 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds - 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds - 10 to 12 hours

Wrap your turkey securely, making sure the water is not able to leak through the wrapping. Submerge your wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze.

In the Microwave Oven

Check your owner's manual for the size turkey that will fit in your microwave oven, the minutes per pound, and power level to use for thawing.

Remove all outside wrapping.

Place on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that may leak.

Cook your turkey immediately. Do not refreeze or refrigerate your turkey after thawing in the microwave oven.

REMINDER: Remove the giblets from the turkey cavities after thawing. Cook separately.


Roasting Your Turkey

Do not cook stuffing inside of your turkey. Be sure to cook stuffing separately to ensure proper cooking temps are reached in both the turkey and the stuffing.    

A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook turkey to higher temperatures.

If your turkey has a "pop-up" temperature indicator, it is recommended that you also check the internal temperature of the turkey in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast with a food thermometer. The minimum internal temperature should reach 165 °F for safety.

Cleaning up

·          Wash all utensils, thermometers, the sink, and any other surfaces that came in contact with the raw turkey and its juices with soap and water.


Storing Your Leftovers

Discard any turkey, stuffing, and gravy left out at room temperature longer than 2 hours; 1 hour in temperatures above 90 °F.

Divide leftovers into smaller portions. Refrigerate or freeze in covered shallow containers for quicker cooling.

Use refrigerated turkey and stuffing within 3 to 4 days. Use gravy within 1 to 2 days.

If freezing leftovers, use within 2 to 6 months for best quality.


Reheating Turkey

Reheat turkey to an internal temperature of 165 °F. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature.

To keep the turkey moist, add a little broth or water and cover.

Information taken from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website, more tips can be read at the following link: