Thanksgiving: tips for a safe meal

Turkeys should not be thawed in hot water.

© Shutterstock

Safety tips regarding the Thanksgiving meal

Turkeys should not be thawed in hot water.

© Shutterstock Thanksgiving: tips for a safe meal How to prepare the Thanksgiving dinner, from washing your hands to thawing the turkey.

Thanksgiving dinner is coming up, and many rumours and myths about preparing the perfect meal exist. In many households, there needs to be clarity about which steps are necessary to ensure safe food handling and sanitisation; after all, no one wants to have their festive day spoiled by an upset stomach.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued safety tips regarding the Thanksgiving meal:

Step 1: clean and sanitise

Handwashing is essential to avoid foodborne illness and you should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before handling food. You should wash your hands again, when necessary, during food preparation, and also after handling food, with hands dried with a clean towel, or air-dried. All surfaces that have touched raw turkey should be sanitised thoroughly.

Step 2: prepare cutting boards

To avoid cross-contamination (spread of bacteria from raw meat and poultry to food or kitchen surfaces etc.) you should use separate cutting boards: one for raw meat and poultry, and another for vegetables and fruits. The USDA advises against washing raw poultry as this might splash bacteria throughout the kitchen.

Step 3: thaw the turkey

Turkeys should not be thawed in hot water or left on a countertop. They can be safely thawed in a refrigerator (24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds), in cold water (30 minutes per pound, submerged in original wrapping; water has to be changed every 30 minutes), or in a microwave (cook it immediately afterwards).

Step 4: cooking

The USDA says that a turkey is safe to eat once its internal temperature reaches 165F. You should use a food thermometer and insert it into the thickest part of the breast, the wing and the thigh.

Step 5: two-hour rule

Food should not sit out for more than two hours at room temperature after being cooked (one hour if the temperature is above 90 F). After that, bacteria can multiply quickly. Rule: keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold!

Last-minute advice

The USDA has a hotline for questions regarding meat and poultry (1-888-674-6854) from Monday to Friday and offers email and chat support. The hotline will open for consumers with questions on Thanksgiving Day from 8am to 2pm EST.