Prepare Your Thanksgiving Meal Safely

Armen Hareyan's picture

The decision of choosing a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner is serious business, both for shoppers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Whether a turkey is sold at a grocery store or ordered by Internet or catalogue, check for the USDA or State mark of inspection which ensures that the turkey has been inspected for safety and wholesomeness.

When deciding on what size turkey to purchase, you should allow approximately one pound per person. If you purchased a frozen turkey it is important to safely thaw it in the refrigerator, in cold water or in a microwave oven. In the refrigerator allow approximately 24 hours for every four to five pounds. To thaw in cold water, allow approximately 30 minutes per pound. If you choose to thaw your turkey in a microwave oven, check your owner's manual to calculate minutes per pound and appropriate power settings, and cook immediately after thawing.

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No matter what size turkey you purchase or what dish you prepare, it is important for consumers to heed the recommendations of the USDA's nationwide campaign, Be Food Safe. When handling and cooking a turkey, put "Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill" into practice in order to help prevent foodborne illness.

* Clean: Always wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Wash cutting boards, utensils, preparation surfaces and anything else that comes in contact with raw turkey and its juices with soap and hot water.

* Separate: Use different cutting boards for raw meat or poultry and other foods that will not be cooked such as vegetables. Be sure to keep the raw turkey separate from the other side dishes.

* Cook: Use a food thermometer. Every part of the turkey and the center of the stuffing should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165