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Helpful Tips for Preparing your Thanksgiving Meal Safely

Thanksgiving is a time for holiday gatherings with family and friends, football, and best of all eating a marvelous meal! It is extremely important to take precautions when preparing Thanksgiving dinner, especially if you are the cook. To keep your guests from getting a food borne illness, follow these important safety tips when cooking and preparing your Thanksgiving dinner:

1. Hand washing 101:

This should be something we shouldn’t have to remind adults to do, but you can never wash your hands too many times. When preparing any food be sure to wash your hands BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER every step of the process. No one wants to get food poisoning so if you are diligent about hygiene that will ensure you have a safe handling of all your courses; salads, appetizers, main dishes, and dessert. Always remember to wash your hands between every type of food you make to prevent cross-contamination, especially when handling meat.

2. Skip the turkey bath:

Grandma might have told you that you should wash your turkey before cooking it to wash away the germs, but that’s actually a myth. Washing any raw meat will increase your chances of spreading bacteria around your kitchen. To combat bacteria and foodborne illnesses on your turkey make sure you cook it to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. That is the magic number! Invest in a meat thermometer and you will never have to guess for proper doneness.

3. Best practices for safe thawing your turkey:

Here are safe ways to defrost you turkey to prevent the spread of harmful germs. Be sure to give your turkey sufficient thawing time in the refrigerator so plan in advance. Depending on how much your turkey weighs, thawing will vary so follow these times accordingly for a whole turkey:

- 4-12 pounds - 1-3 days

- 12-16 pounds – 3-4 days

- 16-20 pounds – 4-5 days

- 20-24 pounds – 5-6 days

If you’re willing to put in the extra effort, place the turkey in a leak proof bag and thaw it in cold water and be sure to change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Cold water thawing times are as follows:

- 4-12 pounds - 2-6 hours

- 12-16 pounds – 6-8 hour

- 16-20 pounds – 8-10 hours

4. Lastly, you can defrost your turkey in the microwave, but this method has it’s draw-backs. For a lot of people this may not be doable because most likely their microwaves are not big enough to hold a whole turkey. Once thawed, cook it immediately.

When the meal is over, don’t leave leftovers out for more than two hours after cooking. If you’re having a buffet, keep your foods hot in chafing dishes.

Most of all, Thanksgiving is about being grateful. So, where-ever you do go, don’t forget to appreciate those who prepared your holiday meal and took the time to make sure everyone has a healthy, happy, and delicious holiday!


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