Holiday food safety tips

Published 8:28 am Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The traditional holiday turkey will be prepared by about 250 million households this year.

To make that dinner safer for everyone to enjoy, there are a few safety precautions to take when preparing your turkey dinner.

By planning ahead, you can reduce the risks of food-borne illness at your holiday table.

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If you purchase a fresh turkey, buy it only one or two days before cooking. Pre-stuffed fresh turkeys are not recommended by the US Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service.

To thaw a frozen turkey, place the turkey in its original wrapping in a pan to catch drippings in the refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

Allow approximately 24 hours per five pounds of turkey. Once the turkey is thawed, it should be cooked within two days.

If you forget to thaw the turkey, you can also defrost one in cold water. Remember to change the water every 30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes per pound of turkey using this method.

When it is time to roast your turkey, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature.

A whole turkey is safely cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

For additional safety precautions, do not cook stuffing inside a whole turkey. If you do, the center of the stuffing must reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees.

To store your leftovers, cut the turkey into small pieces and refrigerate stuffing and turkey separately in shallow containers within two hours of cooking. Leftovers should be used within four days. Be sure to reheat leftovers thoroughly.

When you need some cooking help on Thanksgiving Day, you can call one of these hotlines and talk to a live person to answer not only your turkey questions, but other holiday food preparations as well, or visit Butterball online at

— USDA Hotline for Poultry: 800-535-4555

— Butterball Turkey Talk Line: 800-288-8372

— Reynolds Turkey Tip Line: 800-745-4000.

Jennifer Howard is the Clark County Extension Agent for family and consumer sciences.

About Whitney Leggett

Whitney Leggett is managing editor of The Winchester Sun and Winchester Living magazine. To contact her, email or call 859-759-0049.

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