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Safe Cooking Tips for Thanksgiving

Whether you are a veteran chef during the holidays, or just picking up your first turkey, here are some tips on how best to make sure you have a safe and tasty Thanksgiving.
Did you know that most food poisoning outbreaks occur in November and December?

Did you know that cooking stuffing inside the turkey puts you at greater risk of food poisoning?

Whether you are a veteran chef during the holidays, or just picking up your first turkey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has some tips on how best to make sure you have a safe and tasty Thanksgiving.

Safe Thawing

Thawing turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature. The "danger zone" is between 40 and 140°F — the temperature range where foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly. While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely, but as soon as it begins to thaw, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow again, if it is in the "danger zone."

There are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in a microwave oven. For instructions, see "Safe Methods for ThawingExternal Web Site Icon;" instructions are also available in SpanishExternal Web Site Icon.

Safe Preparation

Bacteria present on raw poultry can contaminate your hands, utensils, and work surfaces as you prepare the turkey. If these areas are not cleaned thoroughly before working with other foods, bacteria from the raw poultry can then be transferred to other foods.

After working with raw poultry, always wash your hands, utensils, and work surfaces before they touch other foods.

Safe Stuffing

For optimal safety and uniform doneness, cook the stuffing outside the turkey in a casserole dish. However, if you place stuffing inside the turkey, do so just before cooking, and use a food thermometer. Make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F.

Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165°F, possibly resulting in foodborne illness. Follow the FSIS' steps to safely prepare, cook, remove, and refrigerate stuffingExternal Web Site Icon; Spanish language instructionsExternal Web Site Icon are available.

Safe Cooking

Set the oven temperature no lower than 325°F and be sure the turkey is completely thawed. Place turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep.

Check the internal temperature at the center of the stuffing and meaty portion of the breast, thigh, and wing joint using a food thermometer. Cooking times will vary.

The food thermometer must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat. For more information on safe internal temperatures, visit FoodSafety.gov's Safe Minimum Cooking TemperaturesExternal Web Site Icon.

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