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Gobble Up These Turkey Tips

You’re just a few simple tips away from cooking a delicious turkey. Here’s how to properly prepare, cook, and store a turkey.

Turkey cooking tips for Thanksgiving

For many of us, Thanksgiving wouldn't be Thanksgiving without turkey. But you don't want uninvited guests—harmful bacteria that can cause a foodborne illness—to contaminate your celebration's centerpiece.

For a holiday tradition that's as safe as it is delicious, follow these turkey-preparing and storing tips:

Shop smart for fresh turkeys

Buy yours only one to two days before you plan to cook it.

Thaw frozen turkeys carefully

The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises thawing a frozen turkey in the refrigerator—not on the counter or in the sink. Allow 24 hours thawing time for each 4 to 5 pounds of poultry. Make sure the fridge is set at 40 degrees or below. And keep in mind that frozen poultry left thawing at room temperature for more than two hours isn't safe to eat.

Know when to be hands-off

Don't touch the turkey (or any food) until you've scrubbed your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for 20 seconds. And be sure to wash your hands after your meal prep as well.

Related: Light Pumpkin Spice Cake

Keep raw items separate

Keep raw turkey, which may harbor bacteria, separate from all other foods at all times. Also use separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils when handling raw turkey to avoid cross contamination. 

Don't bathe the bird

You risk spreading bacteria onto kitchen surfaces if you wash the turkey.

Fully cook the turkey to 165 degrees

This is the only way to kill any lurking bacteria. Insert a meat thermometer in three places to test doneness: the thickest part of the breast and the innermost parts of the thigh and wing.

Toss out rather than risk getting sick

Discard any turkey, stuffing, or gravy left at room temperature for more than two hours. And use refrigerated leftovers within three to four days.

Related: Thanksgiving Recipes

Cool leftovers safely

Use shallow containers when storing leftovers in the fridge. This keeps food from lingering at a too high, unsafe temperature.

What’s your favorite thing to make during the holidays? Tell us on Facebook—we’d love to hear from you. For information on our medical and dental plans, visit selecthealth.org/plans.

Additional reference: Foodsafety.gov

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SelectHealth Staff