Thanksgiving dinner is a wonderful way to bring family and friends together. Even prepping & cooking the bird and other fixings with others can be a joyous, social experience. So let’s keep it that way by following some helpful tips to ensure you and your guests stay healthy and happy!
How to Safely Thaw a Turkey
- Thaw turkeys in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water that is changed every 30 minutes, or in the microwave.
- A frozen turkey is safe indefinitely, but a thawing turkey must defrost at a safe temperature. When the turkey is left out at room temperature for more than two hours, its temperature can creep into the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F, where bacteria can grow rapidly.
How to Safely Handle a Turkey
Bacteria from raw poultry can contaminate anything that it touches. Thoroughly wash your hands, utensils, and work surfaces to prevent the spread of bacteria to your food and family.
How to Safely Cook a 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. Cooking times will vary depending on the weight of the bird.
- To make sure the turkey has reached a safe internal temperature of 165°F, check by using a food thermometer inserted into the center of the stuffing and the thickest portions of the breast, thigh, and wing joint.
- Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat.
Learn more about safe minimum cooking temperatures and how to use and calibrate a food thermometer for turkey and other foods.
How to Carve a Turkey
- Never cut toward yourself. Your free hand should be placed opposite the side you are carving toward. Don’t place your hand underneath the blade to catch the slice of meat.
- Keep your knife handles and cutting area dry to avoid slips. Good lighting around the cutting area is also important.
- Keep all cutting utensils sharp. Having a sharp knife will avoid the need to use a lot of force when cutting, which can be dangerous. Dull knives are more likely to cause slips and are still sharp enough to cause an injury. If possible, use an electric knife.
- Use kitchen shears to tackle the job of cutting bones.
If you cut your finger or hand, bleeding from minor cuts will often stop by applying direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth.
How to Store 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, stuffing, and gravy within 3 to 4 days.
- If freezing leftovers, use within 2 to 6 months for best quality.
For more information about food safety (in English and Spanish), call: