Some Things Stay the Same: A Different Kind of Holiday Safety

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Thanksgiving may look different for many families this year. Less traveling and fewer large gatherings may result in more turkeys and meals being cooked at home. If you only cook turkey once a year or this is your first big bird…here are a some tips that can help you get ahead of the task:

  • You need space. Do you have room in your refrigerator to hold a turkey? If  you're thawing a frozen turkey, you’ll need to keep it at least 3-4 days in the refrigerator. If you order a fresh bird, you’ll still need to keep it below 40 degrees. If you’re brining a turkey, this needs to be done in the refrigerator. This may be just the time to clean out the refrigerator.
  • Clean out the freezer. You might want to stock up on an extra turkey or two. There are usually good prices on turkey just before or just after the holiday. Make sure you have some space to put these finds. A related question…can you use that year-old turkey you find in the freezer? Check out this answer at: How Old is that Turkey?
  • Buy or find your thermometers. If you don’t have one, this would be a good time to get a refrigerator thermometer and check to make sure that the inside of your fridge stays below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Also get a digital instant-read food thermometer to check the important minimum internal temperatures of the turkey and stuffing.
  • Plan ahead. If you’re thinking of getting a fresh turkey this year, you may need to order it ahead of time and arrange for pick-up or delivery. If using a frozen turkey, plan at least 24 hours for each five pounds of turkey to defrost in the refrigerator. Take this link for some tips on how to safely that (or not to thaw) a turkey.
  • Think Food Safety. While there is currently NO evidence that the COVID-19 virus is food related, there are still other viruses and pathogens that can make people sick. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and is spread from person to person. Viruses such as norovirus and hepatitis and pathogens like salmonella, listeria, and E. coli are gastrointestinal and can make people sick through contaminated food. These other causes of foodborne illness are not taking a holiday just because there is a pandemic. The last thing you want now is a trip to the hospital with a foodborne illness! Don’t throw caution to the curb while worrying about COVID and remember these basic food safety practices: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.
  • No matter what you’re doing or with whom you’re doing it, have a happy and safe holiday.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

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