Helpful tips for planning, cooking Thanksgiving dinner

RAPID CITY, S.D. — It comes every year.

Thanksgiving food preparation can be strenuous. But it’s still important to make sure to cook the meal correctly to ensure food safety.

When it comes to the turkey, getting it thawed on time can save a lot of pain and effort. Two of the best ways to do that are the cold water method and microwave method.

For the cold water method, place the turkey in a clean sink and immerse it in cold water. Replace the water in the sink every 30 minutes for the speediest results. Expect it to take about 30-minutes per pound.

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If you’re pressed for time, you can microwave the bird, but it’s important to immediately cook it once it’s thawed and be sure to use your cooking thermometer.

“It’s hard to estimate the time, so that’s an inconvenience,” said Archie Magoulas, a Food Safety Specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “But if you cook it to a good temperature, internal temperature is always the saying, 165 (degrees) minimum and that’s in the inner most parts, breasts, thighs, legs and the wings.”

Once the meal is done and you’re spending quality time with family, be mindful of how long you leave the food out, because bacteria grow faster than you think.

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“Two hours is also a time range that people find very conservative, very tight but actually it is the safest thing to do, before bacteria start to grow,” Magoulas said.

When it comes to leftovers, it’s important to know how long they’ll last. In a freezer, food will stay safe for 3-4  months, but it’s important to “chow down” on your leftovers when you leave them in the fridge.

“The leftovers you can use within three to four days in the refrigerator…maybe two to be conservative,” Magoulas said. “Freezers, they’ll preserve, they stay safe.”

You can find more information on the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline here.

A USDA Toolkit is also available here.


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