- Author: Patti C. Wooten Swanson
Are you taking it easy this holiday by purchasing a complete pre-cooked Thanksgiving dinner?
Don't invite foodborne bacteria as dinner guests. Follow these steps when you bring dinner home:
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 chill out.
- 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