How to Have a Safe Thanksgiving

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November 27, 2013 by thehealthyheartcenter

Food borne illness is something we want to stay away from these holidays. No one wants to get their friends, family and themselves sick after slaving away in the kitchen! Here are some tips on keeping your food safe from steering clear of cross-contamination to how to cook your beloved turkey and stuffing.

Cross-contamination is an easy way for bacteria to spread in your kitchen. Raw meats can spread their juices to other foods while germs from unclean objects can also spread. This is a main culprit of food poisoning so when handling all foods and especially raw meats its important to be careful.

– Start in the grocery store: separate uncooked foods from ready-to-eat foods. Don’t place your uncooked turkey with a box of cookies.

– Store food quickly after you come home, within 2 hours, either in the refrigerator or freezer. It is important to keep the raw meat, poultry and seafood on the bottom shelf in a container keeping the juices from dripping onto other foods.

– Wash plates and surfaces between uses for separate foods or use separate plates: one for raw meats and one for other food

– Place produce in clean storage containers not the ones you got it from

– Don’t use the same knife for raw meat and poultry as other foods

– Use a separate cutting board for meat, poultry, and seafood and a separate one for produce & ready-to-eat foods

How to cook and thaw a turkey: 

3 ways to thaw:
1. In the refrigerator: This you have to do in advance. You should allow 24 hours for every four to five pounds of turkey. If you have a 12-16 pound turkey it will require three to four days while if you have a 16-20 pound turkey it will require four to five days to adequately thaw.

2. In cold water: Thaw the turkey in cold water for about 30 minutes per pound. A 12 to 16 pound turkey will need six to eight hours while a 16-20 pound turkey will need eight to 10 hours. When in the water, the turkey should be sealed in plastic so that water does not leak into the turkey. Having cold water is important, so change the water every 30 minutes. It is important to cook the turkey immediately after thawing.

3. In the microwave: Make sure your turkey will be able to fit in your microwave. Then remove all wrapping from turkey including wire around the legs. Place in a dish that is microwave safe so that any juices will remain inside the dish and not all over your microwave. It should say on the directions on the turkey how many minutes it will need in the microwave per pound of turkey and what power level to use on your microwave. It is important to cook the turkey immediately after thawing. DO NOT refreeze or refrigerate after thawing.

When cooking:
Make sure to cook your turkey to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Also make sure that you are cooking your turkey for the appropriate amount of time. Use the following guide to determine how long.


(325 °F oven temperature) 

UNSTUFFED (time in hours)

  • 4 to 6 lb. breast — 1 1/2 to 2 1/4
  • 6 to 8 lb. breast — 2 1/4 to 3 1/4
  • 8 to 12 lbs. — 2 3/4 to 3
  • 12 to 14 lbs. — 3 to 3 3/4
  • 14 to 18 lbs. — 3 3/4 to 4 1/4
  • 18 to 20 lbs. — 4 1/4 to 4 1/2
  • 20 to 24 lbs. — 4 1/2 to 5

STUFFED (time in hours)

  • 8 to 12 lbs. — 3 to 3 1/2
  • 12 to 14 lbs. — 3 1/2 to 4
  • 14 to 18 lbs. — 4 to 4 1/4
  • 18 to 20 lbs. — 4 1/4 to 4 3/4
  • 20 to 24 lbs. — 4 3/4 to 5 1/4

How to cook your stuffing:

It is recommended to cook the stuffing separate from the turkey to ensure even heating. The center of the stuffing should reach 165 degrees.

What to do with the leftovers?

When refrigerating leftovers, store them separate. If any food has been unrefrigerated for more than two hours throw it out. Keep in mind that the turkey and stuffing should be consumed within three to four days. If you have a large quantity to save, try freezing some leftovers as this increases their life to two to six months.

Use this helpful list of holiday food items and what temperatures they need to reach to ensure their safety for consumption.

Also check out this video for how to use a thermometer properly.



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