Tips to keep your family happy during and after the holiday dinner


When you have so many different dishes to prepare on Thanksgiving, food safety is especially important.

Food handling errors and inadequate cooking are the most common problems that lead to poultry-associated foodborne disease outbreaks in the United States. Follow these food safety tips to help you safely prepare your next holiday turkey meal.

Keep everything clean

  • Scrub hands with soap under warm water for 20 seconds. Do the same after handling food, especially raw meat or poultry, to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Clean counters, cutting boards, dishes and silverware with hot water and soap before and after preparing each food item.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables to remove surface dirt, but do not rinse raw meat or poultry —  this makes it more likely for bacteria to spread.

Heat foods to proper temperature

  • Color is never a reliable indicator of safely cooked food. Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry, and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature — typically 165 degrees.
  • Frying your turkey? Follow our turkey fryer safety tips.

Keep foods at appropriate temperatures

  • Keep hot foods at 140 degrees or warmer with chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays.
  • Keep cold foods at 40 degrees or colder. Nest serving dishes in bowls of ice and store moist desserts, such as pumpkin pie and cakes with whipped frosting, in the refrigerator until serving.
  • Never let food sit out at room temperature for more than two hours.

Store leftovers safely

  • Divide leftovers into shallow containers, which allow rapid cooling, before storing in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Never defrost food at room temperature. Use a microwave or oven to reheat foods to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  • Eat leftover food within three to four days.

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