- Author: Patti C. Wooten Swanson
If you are one of the many Americans who will be purchasing a complete precooked Thanksgiving dinner this year, don't invite foodborne bacteria as dinner guests.
Follow these steps when you bring dinner home from the store or restaurant.
If you're eating later in the day: Food shouldn't be kept hot for longer than 2 hours. As soon as you bring it home...
• Remove all stuffing from the turkey cavity, put it in a shallow container in the refrigerator. (No need to cool it first.)
• Cut up a whole turkey into smaller pieces, including slicing the breast meat and put it in the refrigerator. It's OK to leave the legs and wings whole.
• Refrigerate potatoes, gravy, and vegetables in shallow containers (so they quickly reach a safe temperature of 40° or below).
• Keep cold food cold by putting it in the refrigerator.
When its time to eat:
- Reheat the turkey, dressing and side dishes until hot and steaming, or (the best way) until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 °F as measured by a food thermometer.
- Bring gravy to a rolling boil.
- If using a microwave oven, cover the food and rotate the dish so it heats evenly.
After dinner:"Chill" before you relax.
- Put all perishable foods in the refrigerator or freezer within 2 hours of cooking.
- Cut up leftover turkey into small pieces before refrigerating.
- Place the leftover turkey, stuffing, and side dishes into shallow containers and refrigerate at 40 °F or below.
- Don't forget to refrigerate the desserts, particularly any prepared with eggs or dairy products such as pumpkin pie.
- Freeze any leftovers you won't be able to eat within 3-4 days.
- Throw away any perishable food left out for more than 2 hours---including raw or cooked vegetables, and cut fruit. (Getting food borne illness (aka food poisoning) is no holiday!)
After 3-4 days
Throw out any uneaten leftovers.
Other food safety questions?
Call the “USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline” 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) which is open on Thanksgiving Day from 8:00 a. m. to 2:00 p. m. Eastern Time and regularly Monday- Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET.
Get answers 24/7 from “Ask Karen”, the FSIS automated response system:
Mobile phones: m.askkaren.gov