McHenry County Local News

USDA: Here are three common Thanksgiving food myths

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has provided three easy ways to ease food safety confusion cold turkey this Thanksgiving. These common assumptions when handling your bird have been deemed unsafe, according to the USDA.

Refrigerating a whole cooked turkey is safe

False! It is recommended to always carve a turkey into smaller pieces so it cools faster in the refrigerator, according to a USDA news release. A whole cooked turkey will not cool quickly enough, thus putting it at risk for bacterial growth.

Thawing a turkey on the counter is safe

Never thaw a turkey on the kitchen counter. Once a turkey has sat at room temperature beyond two hours, it enters the “Danger Zone”, where bacteria grow rapidly. Thawing a turkey in a refrigerator is safe. Allow approximately 24 hours of thawing time for every four to five pounds of turkey. Turkeys also are safely thawed in a microwave and cold water. When using the cold-water method, allow 30 minutes per pound of turkey and keep it in the original wrapping. Change the water every 30 minutes and cook immediately after thawing.

A pop-up timer is enough to know if my turkey is fully cooked

Pop-up timers are disposable thermometers used to measure a turkey’s temperature. These times are a great tool, but do not forget to check in the three recommended places, as well. The turkey’s internal temperature must reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh and the innermost part of the wing. Use a food thermometer in addition to a pop-up timer to check the turkey’s internal temperature.

In addition to having awareness of these three common myths, the USDA encourages turkey preppers to remember the four steps to food safety:

  • Clean: Wash hands before touching food
  • Separate: Keep raw meats and poultry away from fruits and vegetables
  • Cook: Turkey is safe to eat once it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Chill: Refrigerate any leftovers within two hours of cooking

For more information, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or email to reach a food safety expert. Live chat also is available at from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The hotline is also open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.