5 Steps to Safely Enjoy Thanksgiving

The holidays are fun and joyous events when family and friends get together for parties and food galore! To enjoy them safely, follow this advice:

  1. 1. Use a food thermometer to accurately determine that poultry has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F throughout the product. The color of cooked poultry is not always a sure sign of its safety. Turkey can remain pink even after cooking to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. The meat of smoked turkey is always pink.
  2. 2. If you plan to prepare stuffing using raw meat, poultry, or shellfish, you should precook the raw ingredients before stuffing the item to reduce the risk of foodborne illness from bacteria that may be found in raw ingredients. The stuffing should be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F as measured with a food thermometer. Do not purchase premixed stuffing from the store if it’s uncooked.
  3. 3. Never try to transport a cooked, stuffed turkey – take the stuffing out and place it in a separate container. To transport an unstuffed one that's freshly cooked, take it out of the oven, immediately wrap in foil and put directly into an insulated cooler. Place in the coolest spot in the car and plan to get to your destination within an hour or less. If your travel time will be longer than two hours, consider carving and cooling your turkey ahead of time to be reheated on site.
  4. 4. Keep eggnog, cheesecakes, cream pies and cakes with whipped cream or cream cheese frostings refrigerated until serving time, as bacteria can multiply quickly in moist desserts that contain dairy products.
  5. 5. Refrigerate cooked leftovers promptly ‐ bacteria can start growing within 2 hours. Use an appliance thermometer in your refrigerator to keep the temperature at 40 F or below.

For novice cooks - if you have any questions about meat, poultry, or egg products, call the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Meat and Poultry Hotline toll free at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). The Hotline is open year-round Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST (English or Spanish). Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day. Check out the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) website. You can also send email questions to
Be safe and enjoy your holidays!

Want to learn more about cooking safety? Check out our article Fire Safety Guidelines for Thanksgiving and don’t forget to like us on Facebook to get our notifications!


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