Some food products may contain bacteria that could cause illness if the product is mishandled or cooked improperly. For your protection, follow these safe handling tips from the USDA:

Keep refrigerated or frozen. Thaw in refrigerator or microwave.

  • Set refrigerator to 40°F or lower.
  • Thaw raw meats in the refrigerator or microwave.
  • Always refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours—1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F (32.2 ºC).
  • Check the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer with an appliance thermometer. The refrigerator should be at 40 °F (4.4 ºC) or below and the freezer at 0 °F (-17.7 ºC) or below.
  • Cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish, ground meats, and variety meats within 2 days; other beef, veal, lamb, or pork, within 3 to 5 days.
  • Perishable food such as meat and poultry should be wrapped securely to maintain quality and to prevent meat juices from getting onto other food.
  • To maintain quality when freezing meat and poultry in its original package, wrap the package again with foil or plastic wrap that is recommended for the freezer.

Keep raw meat and poultry separate from other foods.

  • Avoid cross-contamination by separating raw meat from other foods.
  • Use separate cutting knives and utensils.
  • Store in sealed containers to keep juices from dripping onto other foods.
  • Marinate meat and poultry in a covered dish in the refrigerator.
  • Never reuse a raw turkey marinade on cooked turkey.

Clean anything that raw meat or poultry touches with warm soapy water.

  • Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • After cutting raw meats, wash cutting board, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water.
  • Cutting boards, utensils, and countertops can be sanitized by using a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water.

Fully cook meat to destroy bacteria that could cause food-borne illness.

  • The temperature of the turkey must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.
  • Check the temperature with a meat thermometer in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
  • For optimum safety, cook stuffing in a casserole outside the turkey.

Keep hot foods hot.

  • Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of cooking or discard (1 hour if the temperature was above 90 °F (32.2 ºC).
  • Cold food should be held at 40 °F (4.4 ºC) or colder.
  • When serving food at a buffet, keep food hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays. Keep food cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice or use small serving trays and replace them often.
  • Perishable food should not be left out more than 2 hours at room temperature—1 hour when the temperature is above 90 °F (32.2 ºC).
  • Eat leftovers within 3-4 days.  Reheat leftovers to 165 °F (73.9 °C).

Review additional tips
10 Easy Steps to Cooking the Perfect Turkey