Which government agency is open on Thanksgiving Day? The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline has been standing by to help with your Turkey safety questions for the past 30 years at 1-888-MPhotline.
You can also “Ask USDA” on their website by typing a question and receive an immediate reply from USDA’s virtual representative 24 hours a day. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET, users can chat with a food safety expert online.
“Thanksgiving dinner can be a challenging meal to prepare because it is so time-consuming and complex,” said Diane Van, USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline Manager. “When you factor in thawing the turkey, cooking the turkey, preparing side dishes and desserts – and making sure guests are accounted for – it is easy to forget that food safety is the most important ingredient to making the meal an enjoyable one.”
Here are 4 turkey safety tips from the USDA to keep everyone healthy and happy over the holidays.
Tip #1: Keep everything clean.
Illness-causing bacteria can survive on your food, hands, utensils, and cutting boards.
Wash your hands often while preparing your meal:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- After handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, or their juices, or uncooked eggs
- Before eating
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- After touching garbage
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
Wash surfaces and utensils after each use:
- Run cutting boards and utensils through the dishwasher or wash them in hot soapy water after each use.
- Keep countertops clean by washing with hot soapy water after preparing food.
- Wash dish cloths often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
Tip #2: Separate, don’t cross contaminate.
Use separate cutting boards and plates for produce, meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs:
- When you prepare Thanksgiving dinner, keep the raw turkey away from vegetables and side dishes.
- Use one cutting board for fresh produce and bread and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
- Wash the cutting board with hot, soapy water after each use; then rinse with clear water and air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels.
- Use separate plates and utensils for cooked and raw foods.
Tip #3: Cook the turkey & stuffing to a safe temperature.
Cook to the right temperature:
- Regardless of the method of cooking, you can’t tell if the bird is done by the color of the cooked poultry.
- You must use a thermometer to make sure every part of the turkey and the center of the stuffing is an internal temperature of 165 °F, or higher if desired.
- When you think your food is done, place the food thermometer in the thickest part of the food, making sure not to touch bone, fat, or gristle.
- Even if you make stovetop or casserole stuffing, test it with a thermometer.
Keep hot food at a safe temperature:
- Keep food hot (140˚F or above) after cooking.
- If you’re not serving food right after cooking, keep it out of the temperature danger zone by using a heat source like a chafing dish, warming tray, or slow cooker.
Tip #4: Refrigerate or freeze leftovers safely.
- Refrigerate or freeze foods before temperature lower than 140° F. (Food poisoning occurs.)
- Your refrigerator should be set to 40°F or below and your freezer to 0°F or below.
- Discard any turkey, stuffing, side dishes and gravy left out at room temperature longer than 2 hours.
- Divide leftovers into smaller portions, and refrigerate them in covered, shallow containers for quicker cooling.
- Be sure to consume refrigerated turkey, stuffing, side dishes and gravy within 3 to 4 days or freeze the leftovers for later use.
Bonus Tip: Keep egg-rich desserts chilled.
- Foods made with eggs and milk such as pumpkin pie must first be safely baked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 °F. Then, they must be refrigerated after baking.
- Eggs and milk have high protein and moisture content; when foods baked with these products are left at room temperature, conditions are ripe for bacteria to multiply.
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