NDSU Extension - Sargent County


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Let’s Eat Safely

Let’s Eat Safely




Do you have a meal that is “traditional” for Thanksgiving?  Perhaps one that includes turkey and dressing?  Follow basic food safety guidelines to make sure it is memorable for positive reasons, rather than miserable due to an incident of food borne illness. 

Use only accurate, reliable sources of information about food safety.  Two sources for accurate, reliable information are:

Start clean, stay clean, and avoid cross contamination. 

  • Use separate tools and surfaces for raw and cooked/ready to eat foods.
  • Disinfect all surfaces before and after use with a kitchen safe cleaner. (1 Tablespoon unscented chlorine bleach mixed into 1 gallon of room temperature water)

Thaw the turkey properly.  It is never safe to thaw a turkey at room temperature.  Instead, use the refrigerator method or cold water bath method, allowing adequate time as advised by the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service at https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep-food-safe/food-safety-by-events-and-seasons#thanksgiving.

  • The refrigerator method:  Place frozen turkey in a container large enough to hold it, then place it on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator for the necessary number of days, depending on the weight of the turkey. 
  • The cold water bath method:  Place the frozen turkey in a leak-proof plastic bag in a clean kitchen sink.  The sink must be deep enough so that the turkey can be completely covered with water.  Use only COLD water to COMPLETELY cover the water.  Drain the water and replace it with fresh, clean cold water every 30 minutes.  Cook the turkey immediately after thawing.

Cook the turkey correctly.  Season it inside and out, then roast it in an oven that is 325 degree F. or hotter until the turkey reaches the safe internal target temperature.  This will take a while.  Consult the online USDA/FSIS publication, Let’s Talk Turkey, for time estimates.  It is recommended that the dressing be baked in a separate baking dish, NOT stuffed inside the turkey.

  • Turkey should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F as measured with on a food thermometer in each of three different places on the turkey:  the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh, and the innermost part of the wing.  Do not allow the thermometer to touch any bone when testing the internal temperature, and clean the thermometer after each insertion if the reading at that point was below 165 degrees F.  Do not rely only on the “pop-up” temperature indicator; use a calibrated food thermometer.
  • Dressing is safest if it is baked in its own separate container rather than stuffed inside the turkey.  If it is stuffed inside the turkey, it should put in immediately before being roasted, and it should only be LOOSELY spooned into the turkey. NOT packed in.  The stuffed turkey should be baked until the center of the dressing and the other three testing points each reach 165 degrees F.  Anything less than that is simply not safe. 

Refrigerate food promptly after the meal.

  • Cut meat off the bone.
  • Put leftovers into shallow containers less than two inches deep.
  • Refrigerate leftover food within 2 hours of cooking, then eat or freeze within 3-4 days.

If you have a question about meat, poultry, or egg products, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline toll free at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). The Hotline is open year-round Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Central Time.  On Thanksgiving Day, the Meat and Poultry Hotline will be available from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Central Time.

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/christmas-dinner-christmas-turkey-750362/ (downloaded 11/24/20)

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