Stay Food Safe this Thanksgiving Holiday

Washington, November 7, 2022 – Fill your bellies with turkey and avoid food poisoning this Thanksgiving holiday. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds us all that it’s important to remember the procedures to ensure food safety during America’s largest meal.

“The four steps to ensuring food safety — clean, separate, cook, and cool — are important every day, every meal, but especially at Thanksgiving,” said USDA Deputy Undersecretary Sandra Eskin. has lots of guests and lots of good food, but you don’t want to invite food poisoning bacteria Follow these 4 steps, especially don’t forget to use a food thermometer, so that Thanksgiving Dinner will be safe.”

Follow these tips to keep your Thanksgiving celebration food safe.

cleaning and disinfection

Hand washing is the first step in preventing food poisoning. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before, during, and after handling food. A recent study found that 97% of participants in the USDA test kitchen were unable to wash their hands properly. Here are the steps for hand washing:

  • Wet your hands with clean running water.
  • Lather your fingers with soap.
  • Rub the soapy hands and fingers together for at least 20 seconds. Rinse hands with clean running water.
  • Dry your hands with a clean towel or let them air dry.

Clean and disinfect surfaces that came in contact with raw turkey and its juices, as well as surfaces that will come in contact with food later, such as kitchen counters, sinks, stoves, and tabletops.

avoid cross contamination

Cross-contamination is the spread of bacteria from raw meat or poultry to ready-to-eat foods, surfaces, and utensils. One way around this is to use separate cutting boards. One for raw meat and poultry and one for fruit and vegetables. Our recent survey found that the sink is the most polluted spot in the kitchen. The USDA recommends not washing raw poultry due to the risk of spreading bacteria throughout the kitchen.

Safely defrost a turkey

Do not defrost the turkey in boiling water or place it on the counter. There are three ways to safely thaw turkey: refrigerator, cold water, and microwave.

  • Thawing in the Refrigerator: Turkey is safe to thaw in the refrigerator, so you can defrost it slowly and safely. If thawing in the refrigerator, wait about 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of turkey. After thawing, turkey is safe in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.
  • Cold Water Thawing: The cold water thawing method will defrost the turkey faster, but requires more care. When thawing in a cold water bath, wait 30 minutes per pound and place the turkey in its original packaging to avoid cross-contamination. submerge. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Turkey should be cooked immediately after thawing.
  • Microwave Thawing: To defrost a microwave-safe turkey, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Cook immediately after defrosting, as some parts of the food may become hot during the defrosting process, start cooking, and move the food into the “danger zone.”

You can safely cook a whole frozen turkey. However, it takes at least 50% longer to fully cook.

to cook thoroughly

Turkey is safe to eat when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the internal temperature by inserting food grade thermometers into the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the wing, and the innermost part of the thigh. The USDA recommends using a food thermometer to make sure it hits 165 F in his three aforementioned locations, even if your turkey has a pop-up temperature indicator.

stuff a turkey

The USDA does not recommend stuffing turkeys as it often leads to bacterial growth. However, if you’re stuffing a turkey, follow these steps.

  • Separately prepare wet and dry ingredients for stuffing and refrigerate until ready to use. Mix wet and dry ingredients just before filling bird cavity.
  • Do not stuff whole poultry and keep it in the refrigerator before cooking.
  • Loosely stuff the turkey—about 3/4 cup stuffing per pound.
  • Immediately place the stuffed raw turkey in an oven set at 325 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
  • Stuffed turkey takes a long time to cook. After cooking, place a food-grade thermometer in the center of the stuffing to make sure it reaches a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Let the cooked turkey stand for 20 minutes, then remove the stuffing.

For more information on turkey stuffing, see Turkey Basics: Stuffing.

2 hour rule

Don’t leave food out for too long. All perishable foods should be refrigerated at room temperature within 2 hours of cooking, or 1 hour if the temperature is 90 F or higher. After two hours, perishable foods enter the “danger zone” (between 40°F and 140°F). Bacteria can grow rapidly there and food can become unsafe. Discard all food that sits for more than 2 hours. Remember the rules — keep hot food hot and cold food cold.

  • Transporting Hot Food — Wrap dishes in insulated containers to keep temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cold Food Transport — Place items in coolers with ice or gel packs to keep them below 40 F.

When serving food to groups, use friction plates or cooking pots and ice cube trays to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hot items above 140°F and cold items below 40°F must be kept


Put the leftovers in a small shallow container and put it in the refrigerator. Thanksgiving leftovers are safe to eat in the refrigerator for up to four days. In the freezer, leftovers can be safely frozen indefinitely while maintaining peak quality for 2-6 months.


For Thanksgiving food safety questions, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or email or live chat at from 10am to 6pm. Eastern time, Monday through Friday.

Have a last minute Turkey Day question? The meat and poultry hotline will be open from 8am to 2pm EST on Thanksgiving Day.

Check out the USDA FoodKeeper app. This helps reduce food waste by providing food and beverage storage information. Access news releases and other information on the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) website at Follow FSIS on Twitter. or in spanish:

USDA touches the lives of all Americans every day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system, focusing on more resilient local and regional food production. A fairer market for all producers. Ensure access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities. Build new markets and income streams for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices. Making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America. We promise equity across the sector by removing systemic barriers and building a more representative American workforce. For more information, please visit


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, an employer, and a lender.

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