Don’t Let Foodborne Illness Ruin Your Thanksgiving Holiday

Tuesday, November 14, 2017
DES MOINES, IA (November 14, 2017) – Whether you’re a restaurant chef or a home cook, don’t let foodborne illness ruin your Thanksgiving holiday meal.  Unsafe handling and under-cooking your holiday bird can cause foodborne illness, according to the food safety experts at the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA).

Before beginning your meal preparation, be sure to handle the turkey according to the processor’s instructions.  All turkeys should be refrigerated or frozen until you begin the cooking process.  Be sure to thaw the turkey using one of the following three safe methods:

Refrigerator – allow approximately 24 hours for every four to five pounds of bird.  A 16-pound bird may take four or five days to completely thaw.  Also, once your turkey is thawed, it can be safely stored in your refrigerator for another one to two days before cooking.

Cold Water – submerge your frozen turkey in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes.  Cold water thawing is quicker than thawing your turkey in the refrigerator, and a 16-pound bird should be ready for cooking within eight to 10 hours.  Once thawed, the turkey should be prepared as soon as possible.

Microwave Thawing – is the fastest way to thaw a frozen bird.  Following the manufacturer’s directions for defrosting the bird, based upon the turkey’s weight, and immediately begin the cooking process once thawed.

As a final reminder, a frozen turkey can be roasted straight from the freezer.  Be sure to allow at least 50 percent more time when cooking a frozen turkey. 

Safe handling prior to cooking is just as important as the preparation and service of your Thanksgiving turkey.  When preparing your holiday bird, the experts remind all Iowans to follow four simple steps to food safety – clean, separate, cook and chill.
  • Make sure your hands and food preparation areas are clean.  Cooking utensils, plates, countertops and cutting boards, too, should always be washed.  Bacteria, which can be present inside and outside a turkey, cannot be washed off the bird.  Cooking is the only way to destroy with potentially dangerous bacteria.
  • Always separate your raw turkey from fresh foods, and use separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils when preparing and serving your turkey.  Never reuse a plate, utensil, or cutting board that has come into contract with raw foods without first washing it with soap and warm water.  
  • Your holiday turkey is not safe until it reaches 165⁰F.  Doneness cannot be judged by the color of the meat or juices.  Remember that any stuffing cooked inside the bird should reach a temperature of 165⁰F, too.  To ensure that your turkey has reached the appropriate temperature, always check in three places – the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the wing, and the innermost part of the thigh.  Remember, too, that when your turkey is removed from the oven, it should stand for 20 minutes before carving, which allows the juices to resettle.
  • Lastly, always refrigerate leftovers within two hours of serving.  To facilitate cooling, leftover turkey should be cut into smaller pieces and all leftovers should be stored in smaller containers.  When preparing leftovers, thoroughly reheat them to an internal temperature of 165⁰F.  Properly packaged, leftovers can safely be kept in the refrigerators for three to four days or frozen for up to six months.
Remember, the bacteria that causes foodborne illness cannot be smelled or tasted, so always following the four food safety tips when preparing all of your holiday meals.  For more information about food safety, visit

Printed from the website on June 22, 2018 at 1:36pm.