UW-Madison Division of Extension provides Thanksgiving food safety tips

For the Tomahawk Leader

WISCONSIN – With Thanksgiving on the horizon, University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension is offering food safety tips to ensure your turkey day meal is prepared and stored safely.

“Thawing and cooking are the two challenges any holiday cook will face,” said Barbara Ingham, Extension Food Safety Specialist. “When thawing the turkey in the refrigerator, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends allowing 24 hours for every four to five pounds of meat. For example, a 16- to 20-pound turkey would need at least three or four days to thaw. Some newer, more efficient refrigerators can add a day or two to that time.”

Ingham noted that turkeys can also be thawed in the microwave, or in a sink filled with cold water—just change the water every 30 minutes.

“It’s also possible to cook a turkey directly from the frozen state,” Ingham added.

Debbie Moellendorf, Lincoln County Division of Extension, said that in addition to the challenge of thawing a turkey, consumers struggle with other questions, such as knowing when a turkey is sufficiently cooked and how to handle leftovers.

Moellendorf recommends cooking Thanksgiving turkeys to an internal temperature of 165°F, as measured with a food thermometer.

“Check the temperature several places, the thickest part of the breast, the inner thigh, and the wing,” Moellendorf stated. “Check the temperature of stuffing too. All turkey meat, including any that remains pink, is safe as soon as all parts reach 165°F.”

Once thoroughly cooked, proper cooling and handling of leftovers is a key food safety step, Extension noted.

“Refrigerate leftovers within two hours,” Ingham said. “Cut turkey into smaller pieces and place in shallow containers for quick cooling in the refrigerator. Place leftover sauces, dressing, and any side dishes in the refrigerator within two hours as well. Use leftovers within four days or freeze for longer storage.”

Ingham joked that she often refers to leftovers as “planned overs,” with family and guests sometimes preferring meal items reheated or eaten cold the next day.

Dessert is a part of many holiday meals. Moellendorf noted that pumpkin pie, custard pie and cheesecake must also be handled safely. Bake these festive desserts to a safe minimum internal temperature of 160°F. Once cool, refrigerate until the big meal.

Pumpkin or cream pie purchased from the market or grocery store are also safest stored in the refrigerator once they are brought home, Moellendorf added.

For more information regarding food safety, contact the Lincoln County Division of Extension office at 715-539-1072.

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