Safe Turkey Tips for Thanksgiving Dinner

November 19, 2021, 2:19 pm | Anirudh Naig

Festive celebration roasted turkey for Thanksgiving by fahrwasser/, Iowa – The Thanksgiving holiday is that time of year when many Iowans look forward to celebrating with family, friends and a turkey dinner, says Anirudh Naig, a food safety state specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

“As we prepare the turkey, maintaining food safety is important. Follow these tips for a safe and successful Thanksgiving dinner,” Naig said.

Thaw your turkey safely using one of the following methods: in the refrigerator; in a leak-proof plastic bag in a sink of cold water (the water should be changed every 30 minutes); or in the microwave following manufacturer’s instructions. All microwaves are different, so adapt your thawing time in the microwave accordingly.

Do NOT thaw turkey on the countertop. Leaving raw turkey at room temperature for more than two hours can make the turkey unsafe by encouraging bacterial growth.

Do NOT wash or rinse raw turkey. Doing so will spread germs in the kitchen sink, other foods, utensils and countertops.

Prevent cross contamination by following the simple steps of Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.

Wash hands with soap and warm water before and after handling food.

Cook stuffing separately from the turkey to ensure the stuffing is cooked thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to check temperature (165 degrees Fahrenheit for stuffing).

Cook turkey thoroughly and check the internal temperature, which should be 165 F. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey. If using a pop-up temperature indicator, still use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature.

Cook all side dishes to the appropriate internal temperature and follow Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.

Cool leftovers to 40 F or colder as soon as possible immediately. Large portions of meat should be divided into smaller portions to enable faster cooling.

When reheating turkey, reheat to a minimum internal temperature of 165 F.

“By following these simple food safety practices, you can have a safe and successful Thanksgiving dinner with your family and friends,” Naig said. “Let the celebrations begin!”

Photo credit: fahrwasser/

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