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Thanksgiving Tidbits

Thanksgiving is one of the most anticipated meals of the year, so make it memorable for the right reasons. Follow these food safety tips.

Plan Ahead and Make Space in the Refrigerator.

If buying a fresh turkey purchase it 1 to 2 days before you plan to cook it and place it in the refrigerator, on a tray that can catch any juices that may leak until you are ready to cook.  Frozen turkeys should be thawed in the refrigerator.  Allow 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds

Don’t wash the turkey

Washing the turkey can splash bacteria up to 3 feet contaminating countertops, towels and other food!  Keep raw turkey separated from all other foods and use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils. Wash hands, surfaces, and utensils between each food prep.

Use a Food Thermometer

The only way to determine if your turkey is cooked to the correct internal temperature is to use a food thermometer.  A whole turkey should be checked in 3 locations: the innermost part of the thigh and wing, and the thickest part of the breast. Your thermometer should read 165° F in all 3 places. If it doesn’t continue cooking.

Properly Store Leftovers

Promptly refrigerate leftovers by cutting turkey into smaller slices and placing in shallow containers. Use leftover turkey within 3-4 days or freeze. Reheat thoroughly to 165° F.

If the holiday meal becomes overwhelming USDA has a toll-free hotline open on Thanksgiving Day from 8am to 2pm ET, with live food safety experts available to help in English and Spanish. Call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline or (1-888-674-6854).  Happy Thanksgiving!

Sources: USDA and The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.

And with all of that leftover turkey here’s a recipe to help.


White Turkey Chili

(Serves 8)

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 4 cups cooked turkey, chopped
  • 2 cans (15.5 oz.) Great Northern beans, drained
  • 2 cans (11 oz.) corn, undrained
  • 1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies
  • 4 cups turkey or chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin


Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and celery, cook and stir 2-3 minutes. Place all ingredients in a large saucepan (at least 4 quarts). Stir well. Cover and cook about 15 minutes over medium heat stirring

occasionally until thoroughly heated.