Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be the same without a turkey dinner. Unfortunately, all of the enjoyment of eating turkey can be ruined by getting sick. The good news is that there are ways to prevent foodborne illness from happening.

Thawing

There are three safe ways to thaw a frozen meat:

1) In the refrigerator – Plan at least 24 hours for every four to five pounds of meat. Leave it in its original package, and place it in a pan to catch any juices that may leak.

2) In cold water – Thaw at least 30 minutes for every pound of meat. Wrap your meat securely to prevent water from coming in contact with it. Place the meat under cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Cook immediately after thawing.

3) In the microwave – Consult the owner’s manual for size of meat, time needed, and power level to use for thawing. Remove any packaging. Use a microwave-safe dish to catch juices. Cook immediately after thawing.

Preparation

Before preparation, wash your hands and any surfaces you use to prepare the turkey. Work quickly to get it ready for cooking without changing to other tasks. When the turkey is in the oven, wash your hands and all surfaces that came in contact with the meat or your hands.

Cooking

Use an oven setting of at least 325 degrees Fahrenheit to cook your meat. Check the temperature of the turkey to ensure it is safe to eat.

n Turkey should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees for safety, although most people prefer it cooked to a higher temperature, like 180 degrees.

n If your turkey has a “pop-up” temperature indicator, it is recommended that you also check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast with a food thermometer.

n For quality, let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before carving to allow juices to set. The turkey will carve more easily.

n Stuffing – Cook your stuffing separate from the turkey for food safety reasons as well as more consistent cooking.

Storage

Throw out the turkey, stuffing, gravy, or any other perishable food that has been left out at room temperature for more than two hours. Cool leftovers quickly by dividing them into shallow containers and placing in the refrigerator or freezer immediately. Leftover turkey and stuffing should be eaten within three to four days, gravy within one to two days. Frozen leftovers need to be used within two to six months for best quality.

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