NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Thanksgiving means a big meal for many, and there are important measures you can take to avoid food borne illness.
"Correct food preparation and safely handling raw food can prevent illness," said Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain. "Salmonella and other harmful pathogens are only destroyed by properly preparing and cooking the turkey. Don't leave leftovers out too long and maintaining a clean food preparation surface will also prevent illness."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture offered these food safety tips to keep food safe this Thanksgiving.
Don't wash the turkey.
According to the FDA's most recent Food Safety Survey, 68 percent of people wash a whole turkey before cooking it. The USDA does not recommend washing raw meat or poultry before cooking. That's because raw meat and poultry can hold bacteria, and washing it can cause the bacteria to spread up to three feet away. Cooking meat to the right temperature should kill any bacteria that may be present.
Use the refrigerator, cold water, or the microwave to defrost a frozen turkey.
Those three methods are the safe ways to defrost a turkey. Thawing food in the refrigerator is the safest method, because the turkey will defrost at a consistent, safe temperature. It takes 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey to thaw in the refrigerator. To thaw in cold water, submerge the turkey in its original wrapper. Change the water every 30 minutes. Refer to your microwave owner's manual for instructions on microwave defrosting. Cold water and microwave thawing can be used if the turkey did not entirely defrost in the refrigerator.
Use a meat thermometer.
The only way to tell if a turkey is cooked is to check the internal temperature. The whole turkey should be checked with a food thermometer in three locations: the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing, and the thickest part of the breast. The thermometer should register 165°F in all three places.
Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days.
Cut the turkey off the bone and refrigerate it as soon as you can. It is best to refrigerate the leftovers within 2 hours of the turkey coming out of the oven. Leftovers will last for 4 days in the refrigerator. If you won't use them right away, it is safest to freeze the rest of the leftovers.
Consumers with food safety questions can visit foodsafety.gov for more information.