Celebrate the season safely – National Consumers League

Whatever your family’s holiday traditions, they are sure to involve large quantities of food. With all that food come safety risks. Here are a few tips to make sure your family has a safe Thanksgiving and holiday season.

Turkey safety

While it may make the process move more quickly, it is not safe to leave your bird out of the refrigerator to defrost overnight. Plan to defrost in the refrigerator, allowing 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of bird. Alternately, defrost your bird in a cold water bath. Change the water every 30 minutes and allow for 30 minutes for every pound. Turkeys, especially large ones, can take a long time to cook so make sure you allow plenty of time for your bird to be fully and completely cooked. To find out of the turkey is done, use a meat thermometer to check the thickest part of bird, at the thigh, wing and breast. The internal temperature should be 165۫. If you have stuffed your bird, check it to make sure the stuffing has reached 165۫ as well. If your turkey comes with a popup thermometer, double check it’s done by using a meat thermometer.


While it is traditional to cook stuffing inside the bird, this can create a dangerous situation.  Food safety experts recommend cooking the stuffing in a separate container to avoid cross contamination that may cause foodborne illnesses common in poultry, like salmonella and campylobacter.

Side Dishes

Because Thanksgiving Day celebrations can stretch throughout the day, it is important to make sure to store side dishes appropriately.  Dishes should not be left out for more than two hours.  Warm sides should be kept heated over the stove or in the oven.  Cool dishes can be kept in the refrigerator until service time.  When the meal is done, all leftover food should be put into the refrigerator within two hours and stored in Tupperware containers.

From everyone here at NCL, we hope you have a happy holiday season free from foodborne illness!