Food Safety Tips for your Holiday Meal

When you think “Thanksgiving”, what comes to mind?   Turkey!  According the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), more than 46 million turkeys are cooked and eaten in the United States at Thanksgiving. That number represents one-sixth of all the turkeys sold in the U.S. each year.  There are a few tips that will ensure that your holiday meal is safe and delicious.

“Thawing and cooking are the two challenges any holiday cook will face,” according to Barbara Ingham, extension food safety specialist with the University of Wisconsin, Division of Extension.   When thawing the turkey in the refrigerator, the 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. 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, adds Ingham.

For last minute questions, refer to these holiday hotlines.

USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline

  • Phone: 1-888-674-6854 9 am – 5 pm weekdays (Central) 7 am – 1 pm Thanksgiving Day
  • Email:
  • Chat Ask USDA! (English/Spanish)  Live chat during hotline hours

Butterball Turkey Talk-Line

Jennie-O Turkey Hotline