5 Food Safety Sins to Avoid This Thanksgiving

5 Food Safety Sins To Avoid This Thanksgiving

Keep your guests safe by following some simple precautions.

Mistake No. 1: You wait until the last minute to thaw the frozen turkey.

Make a note to yourself to remind you to take the turkey out of the deep freeze in plenty of time for it to thaw properly in the refrigerator. Thaw the turkey in its original wrapper in a big pan on the bottom of your refrigerator so that the juices don’t contaminate any nearby foods.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it will take 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey to thaw in the refrigerator. Here’s a chart to help you:


4 to 12 pounds                           1-3 days

12 to 16 pounds                         3-4 days

16 to 20 pounds                         4-5 days

20 to 24 pounds                         5-6 days

Mistake No. 2:  You give a bird a bath.

To give your turkey a bath is not healthy since it can potentially contaminate both your sink and the area around it. The one exception is if you are brining your turkey.  The best way to do this is to remove everything around the sink and cover the surrounding counter-top area with paper towels. Rinse the turkey in slow running water to minimize splashing, and then transfer the turkey to the roasting pan close to the sink. Throw away paper towels and clean entire sink area with hot soapy water.

Mistake No. 3: You eyeball when the turkey is ready.

You need to use a food thermometer to determine if the turkey is done. The USDA recommends poking the thermometer in the innermost part of the thigh and wing, as well as the thickest part of the breast, until they all reach a safe temperature of 165 degrees.

Mistake No. 4:  You stuff the turkey.

We have all grown up with the turkey being stuffed, but let’s break the tradition on this one. Bacteria inside the cavity of the bird can survive in the stuffing unless both the stuffing and turkey reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. It is safer to bake the stuffing in a covered casserole dish outside the bird. Good news: the turkey will take less time to cook if it isn’t stuffed.

Mistake No. 5:   You admire the turkey all day.

Refrigerate leftovers immediately. Leaving any traces of Thanksgiving dinner, including the side dishes, at room temperature for more than two hours will increase the chances of bacteria growing to levels that can make you sick.


Author: Michelle Hanson

Michelle Hanson, MA, RD, LD is Fresh & Natural Food’s Registered Dietitian. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics with a minor in Community Health from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She is a registered dietitian and current member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Michelle has been a nutrition consultant for numerous years as well as a nutrition research director at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

Michelle is passionate about food and nutrition and believes in helping people find simple, realistic ways to make healthy eating a part of their everyday lifestyle.
If you are interested in meeting Michelle or have questions for her, you can email her at: michelle@fnfoods.com. She will look forward to meeting you!