The Two Biggest Food Safety Hazards on Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving is a time for spreading love and cheer, not germs! Unfortunately, many families do not use proper food handling practices, increasing the risk of food poisoning at their holiday meals. By following this food safety advice, you can avoid the two biggest food safety hazards on Thanksgiving day.

Prevent cross-contamination from the turkey

First, thaw your turkey safely. Place the still-wrapped turkey in the fridge (ideally the bottom shelf) in a pan to catch the juices. This can take several days, so allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds.

When you are ready to cook, you’ll need to remove the packaging. The best place to do this in the sink, which makes cleanup easier. Clear the sink of all dishes, sponges, etc. and clean it using a sanitizing spray. You can make your own sanitizing spray by mixing 3/4 teaspoon of chlorine bleach to one quart (32 ounces) of water. Carefully unwrap the turkey in the sink and place it directly into the roasting pan. You should not wash the turkey, which can splatter germs up to three feet away, contaminating your kitchen with germs.

Shout out to the University of Maryland Extension for this helpful visual and information.

After your turkey is placed in the oven, thoroughly clean and sanitize the sink and counters with bleach spray. Wash your hands and any utensils, knives, or dishes that came into contact with the turkey. Now you are ready to prep and cook the rest of your meal.

safe food handling practices for thanksgiving turkey

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Refrigerate leftovers within two hours

Food safety guidelines recommend refrigerating leftovers within two hours of cooking (not service). Yet many holiday meals stretch for hours past when the meal is served. When food is left in the temperature danger zone (40°F-140°F) too long, bacteria can grow rapidly. You should also take care to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold when traveling to your Thanksgiving get together.

As tempting as it is to enjoy good company and reconnect with family, be sure to pack up the leftovers and refrigerate them within two hours. Setting a timer can help you remember. Try not to overfill the fridge when putting away leftovers. The air needs to be able to circulate freely in order to keep the entire fridge at the correct temperature.

food safety tips infographic for buffet style meals

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Pay extra attention to these two major food preparation safety tips when preparing and serving your Thanksgiving meal to keep your food and family safe. And as always, you should follow the basic steps of food safety for this and every meal. Be sure to share this post with friends and family who need a little extra reminder of these common holiday food safety hazards.

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