Safe Holiday Meal Preparation

The delicious season of Thanksgiving is approaching. Below are some "Hot Tips and Cold Facts" for the preparation and storage of your holiday meals to ensure a safe and happy occasion.

Good Food Handling Practices

  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and running water before handling food, and again after touching raw poultry or meat.
  • Wash all utensils, counters, and cutting boards with warm soapy water after preparing meals and before they are used for making that wonderful cranberry salad or other specialties.
  • Sanitize work surfaces periodically.
    (1 Tbsp. Bleach/1 gal. Water)


  • Never thaw turkey or any other food product on a counter top at room temperature. There are only four safe ways to thaw:

    • Thaw in refrigerator on lower shelf (wrap in plastic bag or place on a tray so juices won't drip on other foods).
    • Thaw in sink under cool running water.
    • Thaw in microwave, Cook immediately after thawing.
    • Thaw as part of cooking process.

      Allow 24 hours per 5 pounds to thaw.


  • Use a stem thermometer to be sure food is cooked well enough to destroy bacteria. Whole turkeys must be cooked to a minimum of 180° F.
Weight Hours
8 to 12 lbs. 2¾ to 3
12 to 14 lbs. 3 to 3¼
14 to 18 lbs. 3¾ to 4¼
18 to 20 lbs. 4¼ to 4½
20 to 24 lbs. 4½ to 5
  • The safest way to cook stuffing is in a casserole. If the turkey is stuffed, the stuffing must reach an internal temperature of 165°F.


  • The leftovers are the best part of preparing the Thanksgiving meal in your home, so let's serve them safely. When reheating the leftovers, bring them up to 165°F as quickly as possible.


  • Shortly after the meal, food should be placed in shallow pans (4" in depth) and refrigerated. This includes leftover pumpkin pie, if there is any.
  • Your refrigerator thermometer should read 41°F or below.
  • Don't overload the refrigerator with too many hot foods.
  • Eat refrigerated turkey within 4 days; stuffing and gravy within 1-2 days. Turkey can be frozen 3-6 months.

The four most important things to remember:
1. Wash your hands!!!
2. Serve hot foods hot.
3. Serve cold foods cold.
4. Never leave food out more than 2 hours; when in doubt, throw it out!

Have a safe and tasty holiday season!!!