Follow Food Safety Guidelines For A Worry-free Thanksgiving

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  10/29/2005 1:41:41 AM

News You Can Use For November 2005

LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames offers detailed advice to make sure your Thanksgiving feast is delicious and safe.

"Follow these food safety guidelines for a worry-free and tasty Thanksgiving meal," the nutritionist says.

If you choose to buy a frozen bird, you may do so at any time, but make sure you have adequate storage space in your freezer. If you buy a fresh turkey, be sure you purchase it only one to two days before cooking. Do not buy a pre-stuffed fresh turkey.

Harmful bacteria that may have been present prior to freezing a turkey can begin to grow again unless proper thawing methods are used. There are three safe ways to thaw a turkey or other food: in the refrigerator at 40 F or below, in cold water and in the microwave.

When thawing in the refrigerator, allow 24 hours of thawing time for every 5 pounds of turkey. When thawing in cold water, allow 30 minutes per pound and change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. When thawing in the microwave, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Plan to cook the turkey immediately after thawing, because some areas of the turkey may become warm and begin to cook during microwave thawing.

Wash hands after touching raw meat or poultry for 20 seconds in hot, soapy water. Also, be sure that utensils, plates, work surfaces, etc., have been thoroughly cleaned.

Keep raw foods separate from cooked or ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination. Raw meat and poultry products may contain harmful bacteria, so it is important that the juices from raw meat and poultry products do not come into contact with food that will be consumed without cooking. Also, never place cooked food on an unwashed plate that previously held raw meat or poultry.

Using a food thermometer could make your turkey taste better, because you won’t overcook your turkey trying to make it safe. A food thermometer is the only way to make sure that turkey has reached a high enough temperature to destroy harmful bacteria.

Be sure to get the turkey to a safe position on the stovetop or in the oven to prevent being burned from the hot cooking pan or juices.

Follow these temperatures to ensure a safe turkey: whole turkey should reach 180 F between the breast and the innermost part of the thigh; turkey breast should reach 170 F in the thickest part of the breast; stuffing (cooked alone or in the bird) should reach 165 F in its center.

If you choose to stuff a turkey, be sure to use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey and the stuffing. The temperature of the turkey must reach 180 F in the innermost part of the thigh, and the center of the stuffing must reach 165 F. If the stuffing has not reached 165 F, continue cooking the turkey until it does.

To keep foodborne bacteria from growing, refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours of cooking. Cut the turkey into small pieces and refrigerate stuffing and turkey separately in shallow containers. Use leftover turkey and stuffing within three to four days, gravy within one to two days or freeze these foods. Reheat thoroughly to a temperature of 165 F or until hot and steaming.

For additional information about holiday food safety, contact the Extension agent in your parish. For information on related family and consumer topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage, at


On the Internet: LSU AgCenter:

Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3929, or

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