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turkey safety

Which government agency is open on Thanksgiving Day? The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline has been standing by to help with your Turkey safety questions for the past 25 years at 1-888-MPhotline.

Now you can also “Ask Karen” on the Web where you can type in questions online and receive an immediate reply from USDA’s virtual representative 24 hours a day. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time, users can chat with a food safety expert.

Here are their Turkey Tips in advance so you won’t have to call them on Thanksgiving

“Thanksgiving dinner can be a challenging meal to prepare because it is so time-consuming and complex,” said Diane Van, USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline Manager. “When you factor in thawing the turkey, cooking the turkey, preparing side dishes and desserts – and making sure guests are accounted for – it is easy to forget that food safety is the most important ingredient to making the meal an enjoyable one.”

1: Keep Everything Clean
  • Keep hands and surfaces clean.
  • Wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Run cutting boards and utensils through the dishwasher or wash them in hot soapy water after each use.
  • Keep countertops clean by washing with hot soapy water after preparing food.

2: Don’t Cross Contaminate
  • When you prepare Thanksgiving dinner, keep the raw turkey away from vegetables and side dishes.
  • Consider using one cutting board for fresh produce and bread and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Wash the cutting board with hot, soapy water after each use; then rinse with clear water and air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels.

3: Cook the Turkey and Stuffing to a Safe Temperature
  • Regardless of the method of cooking, you can’t tell if the bird is done by the color of the cooked poultry. You must use a thermometer to make sure every part of the turkey and the center of the stuffing is an internal temperature of 165 °F, or higher if desired.

4: Store Leftovers Safely
  • Discard any turkey, stuffing, side dishes and gravy left out at room temperature longer than 2 hours.
  • Divide leftovers into smaller portions, and refrigerate them in covered, shallow containers for quicker cooling.
  • Be sure to consume refrigerated turkey, stuffing, side dishes and gravy within 3 to 4 days or freeze the leftovers for later use.

5: Keep Egg-Rich Desserts Chilled
  • Foods made with eggs and milk such as pumpkin pie must first be safely baked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 °F. Then, they must be refrigerated after baking.
  • Eggs and milk have high protein and moisture content; when foods baked with these products are left at room temperature, conditions are ripe for bacteria to multiply.

Here’s a video that tells you everything you need to know to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving: storing, thawing your turkey, how to stuff a turkey and cooking tips.

May we all have a safe and yummy Thanksgiving season!

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