Turkey Talk: Safety Tips to Avoid Food Poisoning Over the Holidays

A quick guide to keeping food poisoning off the menu this holiday season.

We at The East Shore District Health Department know the last gift anyone wants to give to friends and family over the holidays is FOOD POISONING.

 Here are some food safety tips from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA):

THAW frozen food in the refrigerator, under running cold water, or in the microwave.  A 20 lb. turkey takes 4-5 day in the refrigerator to thaw. . To thaw in cold water, keep turkey in the original packaging, place in a clean and sanitized sink or pan and submerge in cold water. Change the cold water every 30 minutes. The turkey will take about 30 minutes per pound to thaw.

WASH hands and food-contact surfaces. Rinse fruits and vegetables.

SEPARATE foods that will be cooked from those that will not be cooked.  Use separate cutting boards: one for raw meat or poultry and one for raw fruits and vegetables. Do not put cooked meats and other foods on unwashed plates that had raw meat, meat juices or egg on it previously.

COOK using a FOOD THERMOMETER to ensure food is cooked to the proper temperature (Turkey should be cooked to 165oF). Bring sauces and soups and gravies to a full boil when reheating. Don’t eat uncooked cookie dough. When making eggnog or any recipe asking for raw eggs be sure they are pasteurized shell eggs or liquid or frozen pasteurized egg products.

Thermal/Conventional Oven Open Pan Method Timetable for Roasting a Turkey at 325 °F.

Unstuffed Turkey Size

Cooking Time

Stuffed Turkey Size

Cooking Time

8 to 12 pounds
12 to 14 pounds
14 to 18 pounds
18 to 20 pounds
20 to 24 pounds

2-3/4 to 3 hours
3 to 3-3/4 hours
3-3/4 to 4-1/4 hours
4-1/4 to 4-1/2 hours
4-1/2 to 5 hours

8 to 12 pounds
12 to 14 pounds
14 to 18 pounds
18 to 20 pounds
20 to 24 pounds

3 to 3-1/2 hours
3-1/2 to 4 hours
4 to 4-1/4 hours
4-1/4 to 4-3/4 hours
4-3/4 to 5-1/4 hours

CHILL leftovers and take-out foods in the refrigerator within 2 hours.


Left-overs should be used within 3 to 4 days unless frozen.

For more tips and information go to FoodSafety.gov. Meat and Poultry Hotline, 1-888-MPHOTLINE (1-888-674-6854). M-F, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. EST.  Open Thanksgiving Day, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. EST. E-mail questions to the hotline at mphotline.fsis@usda.gov

Or ask a food safety question at AskKaren.gov.


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