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Enjoy the Holidays: Preparing Healthy and Safe Meals!

Posted by Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety and Inspection Service and
Dr. Janey Thornton, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services in Food and Nutrition Health and Safety
Nov 16, 2011

Special holiday series – Blog 1 of 5

As we look forward to spending the holidays with friends and family and making meals and memories together, we all want to put good food on the table and do it safely.  We especially want to keep the threat of food poisoning at bay.  Over the next few days, we will share some delicious low-cost holiday recipes with some simple food safety tips to help you prepare healthy and safe holiday meals. The first recipe below talks about preparing and cooking a turkey safely. Recipes to follow will include Grandma’s Stuffing, Baked Apples and Sweet Potatoes, Green Bean Sauté, and Crunchy Pumpkin Pie.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season!

The Turkey


  1. Preheat oven to 325 °F or higher.
  2. Wash hands and clean your work area. Use two separate cutting boards during preparation, one for raw meat and one for vegetables.
    1. Place turkey or turkey breast on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.
    2. Insert an oven safe thermometer in the innermost part of the thigh before placing in the oven. If your turkey has a "pop-up" temperature indicator, it is recommended to also check the internal temperature of the turkey in the thigh, wing and the thickest part of the breast.  The minimum internal temperature should reach 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.  For quality, let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before carving to allow juices to set. The turkey will carve more easily.
    3. For optimum safety, stuffing a turkey is not recommended. For more even cooking, it is recommended to cook stuffing outside the bird in a casserole. Use a food thermometer to ensure that the stuffing has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.
    4. Divide leftovers into smaller portions and refrigerate within 2 hours. Use refrigerated leftovers within 3 to 4 days or freeze for 3 to 4 months.

Source: Let’s Talk Turkey, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service

Author: Meat and Poultry Hotline

Need other recipes for turkey leftovers?  Visit the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipe finder database for more low-cost recipes. For more information on how to protect your family against food poisoning, visit Food or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST and Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. EST.