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Eating healthy this Thanksgiving begins with basic home food safety practices that are known to reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses. The National Turkey Federation and Partnership for Food Safety Education remind all cooks entering the kitchen this season to follow the Fight BAC!® basics of home food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.
• Clean – Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food; wash surfaces often with hot water and soap.
• Separate – Separate raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs from other foods in your shopping cart, grocery bag and in your home refrigerator; use separate cutting boards for fresh produce and for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Your turkey shouldn’t be lying next to your spinach, and yams, until everything is cooked and on your plate.
• Cook – Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the harmful bacteria that cause illness. Your turkey should be cooked to a minimum of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the temperature of your stuffing as well!Best and most healthful results come from preparing and cooking the stuffing separately – outside the bird.
• Chill – After a big holiday meal, we’d like to think everything will keep while we take a quick nap; however for safety, your delicious leftovers need to be refrigerated promptly – within 2 hours. Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator. Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 40 °F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of food poisoning at home.
The ideal Thanksgiving Day turkey is deliciously moist inside and golden-brown outside. Use of a food thermometer ensures the turkey is cooked safely and also cooked to your taste. If the turkey is stuffed, test the internal temperature in three places by inserting a food thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, the breast and the stuffing. The internal temperature must reach a minimum of 165°F in all three places. For a tasty and safe turkey, the National Turkey Federation recommends the temperature reach 175-180°F in the thigh, 165°F in the breast and 165°F in the stuffing. While it has been established that 165°F is the minimum internal temperature for poultry to be consumed safely, most American consumers prefer to cook dark meat turkey to 175°F.
To get an accurate reading, do not let the thermometer tip touch bone. If the turkey is done and the stuffing is not yet 165 °F, remove the stuffing from the turkey and place it in a greased casserole dish to continue cooking until the stuffing reaches 165°F.
Better the Second Day?
Snacking on leftover turkey, and enjoying entirely new dishes provides delicious alternatives the next day, but leftovers can’t stay in the refrigerator indefinitely. Below are some great tips to keep your family healthy beyond the first helping.
• Divide leftovers into smaller portions and store in shallow containers in the refrigerator.
• Eat cooked turkey and stuffing within 3-4 days and gravy in 1-2 days. Cooked turkey keeps for 3-4 months in the freezer.
• Reheat leftovers to 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer, and bring gravy and sauces to a boil before serving.
• Microwaved leftovers shouldn’t have cold spots (bacteria can survive). Cover food, stir and rotate for even cooking.
Food Safety Support
Holiday Food Safety Success Kit
The Holiday Food Safety Success Kit at http://www.holidayfoodsafety.org includes complete information on purchasing, thawing and cooking a turkey; a holiday planner with menus, timelines, and shopping lists; and dozens of delicious (and food safe) recipes. The kit also includes holiday arts and crafts activities for children. A special retailer section has customizable materials for any grocer. All materials are free for download at www.holidayfoodsafety.org. Holidayfoodsafety.org was created by the Partnership for Food Safety Education to support consumers in planning a safe, fun, easy and tasty Holiday meal.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
1-888-SAFEFOOD: For questions about safe handling of the many foods that go into a delicious holiday meal, including eggs, dairy, fresh produce and seafood.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Meat and Poultry Hotline, 1-888-MPHOTLINE (1-888-674-6854). M-F, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. EST. Open Thanksgiving Day, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. EST. E-mail questions to the hotline at email@example.com. Or ask a food safety question at AskKaren.gov.