• Franny Eastwood, K-State Extension agent

Quick Tips for Holiday Food Safety

Updated: Nov 19



K-State Research and Extension News for November 2022


Submitted by Franny Eastwood, Extension Agent


Thanksgiving is a time for families to gather and enjoy each other - not suffer from food poisoning! Here are a few quick tips to keep your family healthy:

  • The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator. It takes about 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of turkey, not including the day you cook it. A 20-24 pound turkey would take 5-6 days to thaw.

  • For optimum safety, do not stuff your turkey. Place stuffing in a separate baking dish or pan to cook.

  • USDA recommends an oven temperature no lower than 325°F for cooking a turkey along with using a food thermometer to make sure the thickest part of the turkey reads 165°F. A 20-24 pound turkey may take about 5 hours to cook.

  • Avoid cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils when handling raw turkey. Wash items that have touched raw meat with warm soap and water or place them in a dishwasher.

  • Refrigerate leftovers within two hours to prevent bacteria from growing on the food. Eat leftovers in the refrigerator within 3-4 days. Use the freezer to store leftovers for longer periods.

  • Do not overfill your refrigerator, as it causes it to work too hard and may not keep it at 40°F or below.

Healthy Holiday Safety Tips
  • Clean out your refrigerator the week before the event to make room for thawing items and storing leftovers.

  • Use a refrigerator thermometer to check that your refrigerator is 40°F or below.

  • Frequently wash your hands with water and soap for 20 seconds.

  • Simplify the day by preparing foods the day before if possible.

  • Do not prepare food when you are ill.

  • Use a calibrated food thermometer.

  • Store leftovers in shallow containers to decrease cooling time. This prevents food from spending too much time at unsafe temperatures.

  • Keep leftovers in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs if the food is traveling home with a guest who lives more than two hours away.

If you are traveling this holiday season:

Transport Food Safely

  • Keep hot foods hot (140°F or higher) by wrapping them in foil, and then in heavy towels or carry them in insulated wrappers or containers designed to keep food hot.

  • Keep cold foods cold (40°F or lower) by placing them in a cooler with ice or freezer packs or an insulated container with a cold pack designed to keep food cold.

Upon Arrival

  • Place cold foods in the refrigerator.

  • Place hot foods in an oven hot enough to keep the food at an internal temperature of 140°F or above; use a food thermometer to ensure the food stays at a safe internal temperature.

  • Plan to serve food shortly after guests have arrived.

Avoid the Danger Zone

  • By keeping hot food hot and cold food cold, you are avoiding the Danger Zone (temperatures between 40 - 140°F) where bacteria grow rapidly.

  • Perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, and casseroles kept at room temperature for longer than 2 hours should be thrown out.

  • Ready-to-eat foods such as cookies, crackers, bread, and whole fruit are exceptions to the Danger Zone

Source: University of Nebraska Lincoln Food Calendar. For more information on nutrition, food safety, health, or family and child development contact the Marais des Cygnes Extension District, or write to fmeastwo@ksu.edu or check out our website: www.maraisdescygnes.k-state.edu

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