Thanksgiving Food Safety

Thanksgiving may look different this year. While you’re changing your plans to be sure you’re COVID safe, make sure you keep in mind these tips for keeping your food safe!

Safe Turkey Preparation

  • Wash your hands with hot, soapy water before working with any food.
  • Keep the raw turkey separate from other foods – in the grocery bag, on a platter and on the bottom shelf of your fridge.
  • NEVER thaw your turkey on the counter or in the sink!
  • Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator: one day for every four pounds of bird.
  • Never refreeze a thawed turkey.
  • Wash any surface or utensil that touches raw turkey with hot, soapy water.

Safe Turkey Cooking

Never cook your turkey in an oven under 325°F, and don’t slow roast it overnight.

  • If you are cooking a frozen turkey, plan to cook it 50% longer than a thawed one.
  • It is safest to cook the stuffing separate from the bird. Cook it until it reaches 165°F.
  • Use a food thermometer – it’s the only sure way to know your turkey is done!
    • Put it into the thickest part of the thigh or breast.
    • When it reads 165°F for 15 seconds, it is done!

Safe Storage and Reheating

  • Divide leftovers and store them within 2 hours in covered, shallow containers in the fridge.
  • Discard any turkey, stuffing or gravy left out at room temperature longer than 2 hours.
  • Use refrigerated turkey and stuffing within 4 days; use gravy within 2 days.
  • Reheat leftovers to 165°F for 15 seconds within 2 hours.


Written by Rachel Caty, MPH, RDN, LDN