Don’t be a Turkey this Thanksgiving, Practice Food Safety!

By Michelle Lane, Dietuekrytetic Intern
Every year about 4 million, that’s 1 in 8, Canadians are affected by food-borne illness a year. There are several more cases that may not have even been reported. Food borne-illness can range from an upset stomach to a hospital visit. Bacteria are naturally found on many foods, especially raw meat products. Ensure that your family and you have one less thing to worry about this busy holiday and follow these 5 tips to a food safe thanksgiving dinner.

  1. Safely defrost your turkey
  • Defrost your turkey on a tray, on the lower shelf of your fridge. Depending on the size of the turkey it will take varying times to defrost, so plan ahead!
Whole Turkey Number of Servings Thawing time in the Refrigerator
8-12lbs 8-12 1-2 days
12-16lbs 12-16 2-3 days
16-20 lbs 16-20 3-4 days
20-24 lbs 20-24 4-5 days
  • Thawing your turkey at room temperature can cause parts of your turkey to be exposed to room temperature for long periods of time, which is a prime breeding ground for illness causing bacteria.
  • For pre-stuffed turkeys you can cook them from frozen.
  • If you have purchased a fresh turkey, only store it in your fridge for 2-3 days before cooking.

Prevent cross contamination

  • When you are busy preparing your thanksgiving feast make sure to keep uncooked items, like your turkey, away from any items that may be served directly like a salad.
  • It is important to wash your hands with warm soapy water and disinfect any surfaces that have come into contact with the raw turkey.

Ensure you are cooking your turkey or other main to the appropriate internal temperature.

  • You can use an oven safe thermometer to keep in your turkey, or use any meat thermometer to check your turkey in the thickest areas when you think it may be done.
Meat Temperature
Turkey 82 C (180 F)
Stuffing 74 C (165 F)
Ham 71 C (160 F)
Roast Beef 63 C (145 F)

Stuffing do’s and dont’s

  • For optimal safety, cook stuffing separate from turkey. Even if the innermost part of your turkey has reached an appropriate temperature, your stuffing may not have. Bacteria can survive on the stuffing if it has not reached proper temperature and may cause food-borne illness.
  • It is best to stuff your turkey loosely to allow for heat to penetrate it easily.

Store items safely and for the appropriate length of time

  • It is important to not leave any of your food out for longer than 2 hours in room temperature. After you have finished your family feast, make sure to put away any extras.
  • You can keep cooked turkey, stuffing, potatoes, yams and vegetables for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Items like cranberry sauce and baked treats may last a little longer (but often the first to go!).
  • If you cooked too much and aren’t sure you will eat it in time, you can freeze left orders which can last 2-4 months!

Most of all, enjoy your thanksgiving with one less thing to worry about!


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