Tips to Avoid Food-Poisoning on Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 22, 2011 - 4:25pm

Many cooks will spend all day Thursday working over a hot stove, basting the turkey and making sure everyone gets their favorite dish.

Still, no matter how you feel about your in-laws you don't want your Thanksgiving meal to send anyone running to the bathroom, or worse the emergency room.

You can start make sure the biggest food day of the year isn't ruined by starting early. Thaw frozen turkeys in the refrigerator, about 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey. If it's already too late you can run it under a cool water bath, changing the water every 30 minutes.

Dr. Elisabeth Hagen is the Undersecretary for Food Safety at the Department of Agriculture. She says a turkey left out can reach unsafe temperatures quickly, allowing bacteria to multiply.

The USDA also recommends against stuffing a turkey because it's difficult to make sure the entire bird reaches a safe cooking temperature, 165 degrees. Dr. Hagen suggests using a meat thermometer.

"The pop-up timers are not necessarily reliable and the breast and the thigh often cook at different rates," she explains.

After dinner there's no rest for the weary. Experts say you have to get those leftovers in the fridge within two hours after gobbling everything up to reduce bacteria build-up. You should be turkey-free by next week. Thanksgiving leftovers should be consumed within three or four days.

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