2021 Thanksgiving Food Safety Toolkit
How to Use This Toolkit
This toolkit is designed to help you get started with your local Thanksgiving food safety campaign. In this toolkit you will find the materials you can use to promote safe food handling during the Thanksgiving season.
We have organized this material to help make your outreach informative, helpful and fun. Resources include:
To encourage co-branding, you may add your organization’s name to outreach materials and media resources. We have talking points for interviews or speeches. A gallery of photographs and infographics are available through the FSIS Flickr site.
Please refer to the following guidelines for usage of the USDA logo, colors and fonts. These materials are available to you at no charge, but any and all uses must conform to these guidelines. Contact USDA for approval of other uses or applications by writing to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The USDA logo shall be reproduced in either one or two colors. The official colors for the USDA symbol are dark blue (PMS 288) and dark green (PMS 343). When reproduced in one color, the symbol shall be black. When the symbol is placed on a color field, it should be reversed to white.
The USDA symbol is designated for display on all information products of the Department. To ensure maximum visibility, the preferred position of the symbol on most information products is the top left corner.
When used in conjunction with symbol of other public and/or private-sector partners, the logo should be given equal placement and may be displayed without the Department name. If all of the symbols represent Federal organizations, the symbols should be placed in alphabetical order. If the organizations are a mix of Federal and non-Federal, the lead Federal agency symbol should appear first with the remaining symbols ordered as dictated by the situation.
- The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (www.fsis.usda.gov) is the public health regulatory agency in USDA responsible for verifying that meat, poultry and egg products are safe, wholesome and accurately labeled.
- Foodborne illness is a serious public health threat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that foodborne illness results in roughly 48 million people getting sick, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths in the U.S. annually.
- FSIS works hard to make sure the meat, poultry and egg products consumers bring home are safe, but consumers also play a role in preventing foodborne illnesses — commonly known as food poisoning. This year, USDA is sharing Thanksgiving-themed tips centered on the four steps to food safety — clean, separate, cook and chill.
Remember your four steps to food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.
- Clean: Clean hands, surfaces and utensils with soap and warm water before cooking. Wash hands for 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat and poultry. After cleaning surfaces raw poultry has touched, apply a sanitizer.
- Separate: Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils to avoid cross-contamination between raw meat or poultry and foods that are ready to eat.
- Cook: Confirm foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature by using a food thermometer. Turkey should be cooked to 165 °F, as measured in three places — the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh and the innermost part of the wing.
- Chill: Chill foods promptly if not consuming immediately after cooking. Don't leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours.
Know what type of turkey you’re buying: fresh vs. frozen.
- Fresh turkey: The “fresh” label means the turkey has never been chilled below 26 °F. Fresh turkeys should not be purchased until one or two days before Thanksgiving, unless the manufacturer’s tag has a “Best by” or “Use by” date that indicates the turkey will be safe until Thanksgiving. If there is no manufacturer’s tag, then purchase a fresh turkey the Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving at the earliest. If you bring home a fresh turkey before Tuesday, it should be frozen before cooking.
- Frozen turkey: A “frozen” turkey is a turkey that has been cooled to 0 °F or lower. Most turkeys sold in the United States are frozen. When purchasing a frozen turkey, make sure to leave enough time for it to defrost.
Thaw the turkey safely.
Thawing a turkey on the counter is unsafe.
There are three safe ways to thaw a turkey — in the refrigerator, in cold water or in a microwave oven.
It will take 24 hours for every four to five pounds of weight for a turkey to thaw in the refrigerator. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for one or two days before cooking.
To thaw in cold water, submerge the bird in its original wrapper in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Cook the turkey immediately after thawing using this method.
For instructions on microwave defrosting, refer to the owner’s manual for your microwave. Cook the turkey immediately after thawing using this method.
Brine the turkey at a safe temperature (below 40 °F).
- Brine is a strong solution of water and salt. The brining process drains moisture out of the poultry, creating a flavorful brine, which is then reabsorbed into the meat without adding additional water.
- To safely brine a turkey, place the brining solution in food-grade plastic, stainless steel, or glass containers. Food-grade plastic bags can be used for brining – do not use a household trash bag. Totally submerge poultry in solution and store covered in the refrigerator or in a cooler with ice.
- Do not leave the turkey out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours.
- For best results, refrigerate at least overnight.
- Poultry may be left in the refrigerator up to 2 days after thawed or purchased fresh.
- Discard brine after use.
- Dry brining is an easy alternative to traditional liquid brining methods. The technique seasons the meat with salt and spices without the use of a liquid salty solution.
- Rub the dry brine mixture over the entire surface area of the poultry, place the poultry in a food-grade plastic bag, press out the air and seal tightly. For best results, refrigerate for up to 2 days and massage the mixture into the skin of the poultry every 8 to 12 hours.
Know how to safely prepare stuffing.
- USDA does not recommend stuffing a whole turkey because it increases the risk for cross-contamination and takes longer to cook. For optimal safety and uniform doneness, cook stuffing separately.
- If stuffing is prepared ahead of time, it must be cooked immediately and refrigerated in shallow containers.
- If you do choose to stuff your bird, do not stuff a turkey the night before cooking it. Harmful bacteria can multiply in the stuffing and cause food poisoning when a stuffed bird is refrigerated.
- The wet and dry ingredients for the stuffing should be prepared separately from each other and refrigerated until ready to use.
- Combine the ingredients and place them in the cavity of your bird immediately before you cook it. Do not stuff whole poultry with cooked stuffing.
- In addition to the turkey, the center of the stuffing needs to reach a safe internal temperature of 165 °F.
- Fully cook any raw meat, poultry or seafood ingredients before adding to stuffing.
Cook turkey to a safe internal temperature of 165 °F.
- To cook a large turkey, use the timetables for turkey roasting for an unstuffed turkey, which can be found in Turkey Basics: Safe Cooking. Add 10 minutes per pound for turkeys over 24 pounds. FSIS does not recommend stuffing a turkey over 24 pounds.
- FSIS recommends cooking turkey to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. This is the minimum temperature necessary to eliminate pathogens and viruses.
- Your turkey is safe to eat when the temperature reads 165 °F in three places:
- The thickest part of the breast.
- The innermost part of the thigh.
- The innermost part of the wing.
- It is safe to cook a frozen turkey. The cooking time will take 50 percent longer or more than recommended for a fully thawed turkey.
- If you cannot separate the giblet package from the turkey before cooking don’t worry; you may start the cooking process and remove it carefully with tongs or a fork a few hours into cooking.
- After cooking meat and poultry, keep it hot at 140 °F or warmer, until served. The cooked meat can be kept hot in an oven set at approximately 200 °F, in a chafing dish, slow cooker or warming tray.
Keep your leftovers safe by refrigerating within two hours.
- Leftovers (including appetizers, side dishes and the turkey) should be stored within two hours of cooking.
- Carve the turkey into smaller portions to ensure it cools safely. It is not safe to refrigerate a whole cooked turkey.
- Dividing leftovers into smaller portions and refrigerating or freezing them in covered shallow containers helps cool leftovers more quickly than storing them in large containers.
- Thanksgiving leftovers are safe in the refrigerator for up to four days. This means you have until the Monday after Thanksgiving to eat them, or you can place them in the freezer to enjoy later. If you store leftovers in the freezer, they will remain of best quality for up to two to six months.
- Frozen food stays safe indefinitely, though the quality may decrease over time.
- Reheat leftovers thoroughly to an internal temperature of 165 °F.
Contact USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline with any Thanksgiving-related food safety questions.
- For Thanksgiving food safety questions, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854), email MPHotline@usda.gov or chat live at ask.usda.gov from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.
- The Meat and Poultry Hotline will be open on Thanksgiving Day from 8am-2pm EST.
Share Thanksgiving food safety guidance with your followers and be sure to use the hashtag: #FoodSafe.
Follow us on Twitter for our Thanksgiving food safety Tweets and Retweet us! Don’t forget to tag us in your tweets (@USDAFoodSafety).
Let’s Talk Turkey – Clean: https://flic.kr/p/KfCyRp
Let’s Talk Turkey – Separate: https://flic.kr/p/KfCyGX
Let’s Talk Turkey – Cook: https://flic.kr/p/KfCyMM
Let’s Talk Turkey – Chill: https://flic.kr/p/KfCyVx
Let’s Talk Turkey – Thawing: https://flic.kr/p/LcakU8
Thanksgiving… It’s Easy as Pie: https://flic.kr/p/2cpDmVz
Host Thanksgiving like a Pro: https://flic.kr/p/NDkKP2
Cooking for Groups – Keep Hot Food Hot: https://flic.kr/p/264faL5
Meat and Poultry Hotline – Thanksgiving Hours: https://flic.kr/p/2mJZtL9