Thanksgiving is a time for us to gather around the table with family and friends, give thanks and eat until we can’t move! As much as we enjoy turkey and all the fixings, our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, and many refrigerators end up overflowing with leftovers. Amongst all the festivities, lurks a hidden danger; food poisoning.
Each year, the CDC estimates that 1 in 6 Americans, or 48 million people, get sick and 3,000 die from a foodborne illness. That’s why it’s important to follow safety precautions during the preparation, cooking and storage of your Thanksgiving dinner.
The improper cooking and handling of turkey are the most common causes of foodborne illnesses during Thanksgiving. Raw poultry can contaminate anything it touches with harmful bacteria, such as Clostridium perfingens, which can cause vomiting and abdominal cramps within 6 to 24 hours after eating.
- In the refrigerator in a container
- In a leak-proof plastic bag in a sink of cold water (change water every 30 minutes)
- In the microwave, following manufacturer’s instructions
- Pre-heat oven to at least 325 °F, cooking times vary depending on weight
- Cook until the turkey reaches a safe internal temperature of 165 °F
- Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before removing stuffing and carving
Whether you are cooking stuffing in a casserole dish or in the turkey, you must make sure it is thoroughly cooked. If preparing stuffing ahead of time it must be either frozen or cooked immediately. When it comes time to cook frozen stuffing, do not thaw beforehand! Just cook it until it reaches 165 °F.
- Bake at a temperature no lower than 325 °F
- Make sure the center of the stuffing reaches 165 °F
- If stuffing is cooked in the turkey, wait 20 minutes before removing
The CDC recommends that all leftovers be stored within two hours of preparation to prevent food poisoning. When it comes to the turkey, it’s advised to cut all the meat off the bone before storing.
In the refrigerator, leftovers can last up to four days when stored at 40 °F or lower. It’s better to only reheat what you will be serving; continually reheating food causes it to lose flavor and moisture. In the freezer, leftovers should be stored at 0 °F and will taste better if consumed within two to six months.
Check out the infographic below for the proper temperatures to thaw, cook, serve, store and your thanksgiving meal.