A Safe Holiday

A Safe Holiday

Maura Bennett
Maura Bennett

While the COVID-19 pandemic is still top-of-mind, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is reminding us to keep family and friends safe from foodborne illness this Thanksgiving.

Meredith Carothers, with USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline, was asked what’s the number one mistake when it comes to keeping the family safe.

Carothers: “Thawing at room temperature is the thing that kind of dooms people’s Thanksgiving from the start.

She says when the bird is left out to thaw on the counter, the outside thaws first where bacteria can grow long before the frozen inside is ready to put in the oven.

Carothers: “Those then can create heat-resistant toxins that won’t be killed by the cooking process. If you eat those, it could essentially make you sick. Thawing in the refrigerator is the safest way of thawing. It will take about 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey.”

So for a 12-pound bird to thaw safely in the refrigerator plan for a little more than 2 full days.

Carothers says you could also submerge a frozen turkey in cold water. You’ll want to replace that cold water every couple of hours to make sure the bird stays cold. If you are really pressed for time, she says it is possible to cook the turkey in its frozen form. That will take about 50% longer in the oven.

If you’ve got questions about other aspects of the Thanksgiving day meal, the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline number is 888-MPHOTLINE(888-674-6854) or you can also go online to Ask.usda.gov Hotline. That will be staffed Thanksgiving day from 8 am to 2 pm EST

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