Thanksgiving Day Food Safety Tips: Avoid Food Poisoning


Home / Thanksgiving Day Food Safety Tips: Avoid Food Poisoning

It’s time to eat when the internal temperature is at least 165°F. Photo by USDA

You can also defrost a turkey in cold water. If you want to thaw your bird in cold water, make sure the water cannot get through the plastic wrap. If there are holes in the plastic, you may need to wrap the turkey with additional plastic wrap.

You should allow 30 minutes in the cold water per pound of turkey. You may also be able to defrost your turkey in the microwave, just check your owner’s manual to determine the time and power setting.

You can cook a frozen turkey without thawing it first; however, it will take much longer than a thawed bird.

Cooking Turkey Safely This Thanksgiving

Once you thaw your turkeys, it’s time to get cooking! The weight of your bird and whether it is stuffed or not will determine the cooking time.

If you didn’t save the wrapper on your turkey, consult the USDA website for cooking times. You should not have your oven set on any lower than 325°F to ensure a fully-cooked turkey. Use a meat thermometer to confirm that the bird s done – it’s time to eat when the internal temperature reaches 165°F.

If you have any questions regarding your turkey and cooking methods, contact the turkey’s brand name. Or you can always call Butterball’s hotline number, 1-800-BUTTERBALL. They have a team of experts that answer 100,000 questions each November and December; everything from impressing your mother-in-law to cooking for a large crowd, the turkey experts have the answers!

Put Away Leftovers Promptly

After a wonderful Thanksgiving meal, don’t let the turkey’s tryptophan make you too sleepy before you put away the leftovers! You should put away all leftovers within two hours of cooking them, to prevent bacteria from growing. The sooner, the better in this case, but no more than two hours. After two hours harmful bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, and E coli can begin to grow. Bacteria grows the quickest between 40 ° and 140 °F, reports the USDA.  This is known as the ‘Danger Zone’ since bacteria can begin to double in just 20 minutes when food is left in those temperatures. Keeping hot foods hot and cold foods hot is another way to help prevent bacteria growing on your Thanksgiving dinner.

Thanksgiving Food Safety in Brief

As another Thanksgiving quickly approaches, remember on the big day: wash up, don’t cross-contaminate, cook thoroughly, and put away leftovers before that post-meal nap. Then, sit back, relax, and enjoy this great American holiday!


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wash Your Hands. (2012). Accessed November 21, 2012.

United States Food and Drug Administration. Be Smart – Keep Foods Apart. (2010). Accessed November 21, 2012.

United States Food and Drug Administration. How Temperatures Affect Your Foods. (2011). Accessed November 21, 2012.

USDA. Let’s Talk Turkey. (2011). Accessed November 21, 2012.

Butterball. Turkey Experts. Accessed November 21, 2012.

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