Thanksgiving Meal Ideas – How to Prepare a Safe Holiday Meal

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Thanksgiving is just around the corner and the season for eating is near! With turkey day approaching, NSF International, a non-profit organization that works closely with government agencies to write food safety standards, wants to make sure you prepare a safe Thanksgiving dinner this year.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, an estimated 80 percent of foodbourne illnesses come from meat or poultry and a NSF International Safety Survey found that only 20 percent of Americans use thermometers while cooking meat and poultry.

To avoid any food poisoning this holiday season, follow the following nine tips from NSF International while preparing your bird:

1. Don’t let uncooked turkey sit at room temperature. Shop for a turkey last and get it home and refrigerated promptly. Bag the turkey separately and place it below other food in the refrigerator.

2. Don’t attempt to thaw a frozen turkey quickly by leaving it sit overnight on a kitchen counter. Use one of the following methods:

  • Option I – Place a covered turkey in a shallow pan on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator.
  • Option II – Completely submerge the turkey under a stream of cold (70°F) running water.

3. Never place the turkey directly on the counter; keep it on a platter or in a roaster. Clean and sanitize the counter and utensils after handling raw turkey.

4. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw turkey, using plenty of warm water and soap.

5. Use a thermometer to check for doneness, even if the turkey has a pop-up timer. It is best to check that the turkey has reached 165°F in multiple spots, including the thickest part of the thigh to ensure doneness.

6. If the bird is stuffed, also check the temperature of stuffing to ensure it, too, has reached 165 °F.

7. Wait to stuff the turkey until right before putting it in the oven.  For those wanting to prepare stuffing ahead of time, the USDA recommends preparing separate dishes with the wet and dry ingredients and keeping them refrigerated, then mixing the ingredients together just before stuffing the turkey.  As a reminder the stuffing should be cooked until it reaches at least 165° F at the center.

8. Once the temperature has reached 165 °F throughout the turkey, it should stand for at least 15-20 minutes before carving.

9. Refrigerate any leftovers immediately. Large portions should be separated into smaller containers and covered loosely to speed cooling.

Following these tips should surly ensure a tasty and safely cooked turkey. Enjoy the holiday season and keep this Thanksgiving food-poisoning free!

Photo from tuchodi via Flickr.

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