Food Safety: Thanksgiving Day

Whether you are thawing a frozen turkey or storing a fresh one, place it in a shallow pan in the refrigerator to catch any juices that may leak (potentially spreading harmful bacteria).

2 Ways to Thaw Your Turkey
Leave the turkey in the wrapper for both methods.

1 day for every 4 pounds of turkey. Cook within 4 days (USDA recommended method).

Submerge turkey breast side down in cold water and change water every 30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes per pound. Cook immediately.

Do not wash or rinse raw turkey

Your turkey is not safe to eat until it reaches 165 degrees F. Always use a meat thermometer. 3 best places to check the temperature:
A - Thickest part of the breast
B - Innermost part of the wing
C - Innermost part of the thigh

Additional information is available at


Traveling with Food
If you are preparing foods at home to take to family or friends, keep cold foods cold in a cooler with a temp of 40°F or below, and hot foods hot at 140°F or above by wrapping in towels or insulated bags. Leftovers should be in a cooler with ice or ice packs.

Frequently wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water, especially after handling uncooked food and before touching other foods.

Separate raw turkey from fresh food, and use separate utensils, cutting boards and plates. Wash items that touch raw meat with soap and hot water.

For safety and uniform doneness, the USDA recommends cooking the stuffing separately in a casserole dish. Cooking a stuffed turkey is riskier than cooking one not stuffed. Harmful bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached the safe temperature of 165 °F (73.9° C), possibly resulting in foodborne illness.

• Pumpkin pie should be refrigerated after baking because it contains milk and eggs.
• Don’t eat the dough or batter. The flour and eggs may contain harmful germs.

Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours. Leftover turkey should be removed from the bone and cut into smaller pieces. Store all food items separately and in shallow containers. Leftovers are safe in the refrigerator for 3-4 days and safe in the freezer (but use within 2-4 months for best quality).

Additional information is available at

Holiday Food Safety Pamphlet

Wash produce but not eggs, meat, or poultry, which can spread harmful bacteria.


Got Questions?

Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or email to reach a food safety expert or chat live at

Monday – Friday
10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Thanksgiving Day:
The hotline is available from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.