Public Service Announcement being shared on behalf of a Bloggin’ Mamas Social Good campaign.

For those of you eating at home today, or are responsible for preparing the big meal, this post is for you. We’ve got some food safety tips below courtesy of the USDA. And here’s a quick and funny video telling you why you should be worrying about salmonella.

Food Safety Tips:

If your family is anything like mine, then you’re used to having the same problem each Thanksgiving—what to do with all the leftover food! While you may be dreaming up turkey sandwiches and leftover pie, just remember that mishandling leftovers can create opportunities for contamination with bacteria.  So keep these food safety tips in mind after the big party to prevent foodborne illness.

Turkey Prep Myths and Tips

  1. Myth: Washing the turkey before cooking makes it cleaner and safer. FALSE It’s impossible to wash bacteria off any poultry, not just turkey, because pathogens live inside the meat itself. Instead, juices that splash during washing can transfer bacteria onto kitchen surfaces, other foods and utensils. The only way to destroy bacteria on your turkey is to cook it to a minimum internal temp 165 °F; at this temperature bacteria are killed.
  2. Myth: Stuffing turkey the night before is a safe way to save time. FALSE. Harmful bacteria can multiply in the stuffing and cause food poisoning when a stuffed bird is refrigerated. The ingredients for the stuffing, wet and dry, can be prepared and refrigerated separately the night before. Stuff the turkey just before you put it into the oven.
  1. Myth: If one turkey takes 3 hours to cook, two will take 6 hours.FALSE In fact, cooking two of approximately the same weight takes no longer than if there were only one bird in the oven. However, make sure to allow a few inches of space between each one to allow the hot air to circulate. A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
  1. Myth: Thawing on the counter is the best way to defrost your bird.FALSE Thawing on the counter is unsafe for turkey or any meat, poultry, and other perishable food.  There are three safe ways to safely thaw a turkey— in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave oven. It will take 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of weight to thaw in the refrigerator. To thaw in cold water, submerge the bird in its original wrapper in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Refer to your owner’s manual for microwave defrosting. The USDA recommended method to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator.
  1. Myth: Smoked turkey lasts longer.FALSE Turkeys are smoked for flavor, not to extend the time you can keep them refrigerated. Store a commercially smoked turkey in the refrigerator, unopened, no longer than a week. Once the package is opened, use or freeze the bird within 3 to 4 days.

How Many of These Leftover Rules Do You Follow?

  • Leftovers should be refrigerated or frozen in shallow containers. Whole roasts, hams and turkeys should be sliced or cut into smaller pieces or portions before storing them in the refrigerator or freezer. This encourages rapid, even cooling.


  • In general, leftovers stored in the refrigerator should be consumed within 3-4 days. When possible, put a sticky note or other label on your leftovers with the date they were first stored so that you know when to toss them out. A full list of recommended cooling and freezing times is here:


  • Throw away all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles, left out at room temperature for more than two hours. This also includes leftovers you bring home from a Thanksgiving meal at a family or friend’s house. Some exceptions to this rule are foods such as cookies, crackers, bread and whole fruits.


  • Turkeys are smoked for flavor, not so you can keep them around until New Years. Store a commercially smoked turkey in the refrigerator, unopened, no longer than a week. Once the package is opened, use or freeze the bird within 3 to 4 days.


  • Reheat solid leftovers to at least 165 °F, as measured by a food thermometer. Reheat liquid leftovers to a rolling boil. Do not taste leftovers to check and see if they’ve spoiled – bacteria that cause illness do not affect the taste, smell, or appearance of food.

Food poisoning is a serious public health threat to our country. CDC estimates that approximately 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) will suffer from food poisoning this year, resulting in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

For more safe food handling info and leftover tips, visit You can also access “Ask Karen,” an online database with 1,500 answers in both English and Spanish to specific questions related to preventing foodborne illnesses. Or, you can also call the USDA Food Safety Hotline at 1-800-535-4555 available from 10am to 4pm Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.


I am sharing this on behalf of Bloggin’ Mamas and Element Associates.