Food safety tips for Thanksgiving

Local News

A Thanksgiving meal is seen in an undated file photo. (Getty Images)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — For those who will be preparing Thanksgiving meals for their families and friends, the Kern County Public Health Department has some tips to keep everyone safe during the holiday feast.

Defrosting a frozen turkey:

  • Thawing food in the refrigerator is the safest method because the turkey will defrost at a consistent, safe temperature.
  • To thaw in cold water, submerge the bird in its original wrapper in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes. 
  • For instructions on microwave defrosting, refer to your microwave’s owner’s manual.
  • Cold water and microwave thawing can also be used if your bird did not entirely defrost in the refrigerator.

Stopping the spread of bacteria:

  • Washing your hands before cooking is the simplest way to stop the spread of bacteria. 
  • The USDA advises NOT to wash your turkey, as it is the easiest way to spread bacteria all over your kitchen.
  • Cooking (baking, broiling, boiling, frying or grilling) meat and poultry to the right temperature kills any bacteria that may be present, so washing meat and poultry is not necessary.

Stuffing your turkey:

  • Even if the turkey is cooked to the correct internal temperature, the stuffing inside may not have reached a temperature high enough to kill the bacteria.
  • If you still choose to stuff the turkey, stuff the bird just before placing in a pre-heated oven.
  • All of the stuffing needs to be removed from the bird immediately after removing from the oven.
  • Any stuffing that will not be served must be put into the refrigerator.

Check your turkey’s temperature:

  • To avoid foodborne illness, make sure the turkey is cooked to 165ºF as measured by a food thermometer.
  • The bird’s temperature should be taken in three areas — the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the wing and the innermost part of the thigh.

Put leftovers away after two hours:

  • Any meat, stuffing or other perishable foods should not be left on the table or countertops for longer than two hours.
  • After two hours, bacteria can rapidly multiply, and if eaten, could make you sick.
  • Leftovers should stay safe in the refrigerator for four days and need to be reheated to a minimum of 165ºF prior to consuming.

For more information or questions call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). You can also visit for more food safety information.

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