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thanksgiving

How to Safely Thaw a Turkey

While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely. As soon as it begins to thaw, bacteria that may have been present before freezing will begin to grow again. There are three safe ways to defrost a turkey: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in a microwave oven.

Refrigerator Thawing (Recommended)

The USDA recommends thawing your turkey in the refrigerator. This is the safest method because the turkey will thaw at a consistent, safe temperature. This method takes some time, so allow one day for each 4 - 5 pounds of weight. If your turkey weighs 16 pounds, it will take about four days to thaw. Once thawed, the turkey is safe for another two days, so you can start thawing it six days before thanksgiving (the Friday before Thanksgiving).

To Wash or Not Wash

Food Safety experts (including us at USDA) do not recommend washing raw meat and poultry before cooking. Many bacteria are quite loosely attached and when you rinse these foods the bacteria will be spread around your kitchen.

'Tis the Season to Talk Turkey

The Thanksgiving season is upon us, time for family homecomings, parades, and football games. More importantly, time for the annual turkey feast. As the marketing season hits full stride, the question on everyone’s lips this year is…will there be a shortage of turkeys? The simple answer is: no.

To fully answer the question though, we have to go back to late March when commercial turkey flocks in the Upper Midwestern production region were overtaken by rapid outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). HPAI, while harmless to humans, is devastating to turkeys and within a few short weeks over 7.5 million commercial turkeys succumbed to the disease.  While the total loss represented just over three percent of the total number of birds raised in the U.S. in 2014, the short time period during which losses occurred left the industry scrambling to cover their business needs.

Countdown to Thanksgiving

The holiday countdown has begun.  In only a few weeks the holiday season begins, so now is the time to start thinking about Thanksgiving. USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline is ready to assist by offering some sure-fire ways to beat the clock to ensure a safe and delicious holiday dinner.

Get the Most Out of Your Holiday Roast

The traditional centerpiece of many holiday meals served this time of year is the roast. Whether you use pork, beef, goose, turkey, or chicken, the most popular means to cook your meat of choice is in the oven.

The roasting recipe that was handed down to you from your great grandmother may need a little updating though. Whether it asks you to marinate at room temperature overnight, or cook until ‘the juices run clear,’ some instructions in heirloom recipes might be outdated. To help you make the dish your great grandmother intended, we pulled together a list of holiday roasting tips.

Secretary's Column: Celebrating Our Nation's Agricultural Abundance this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a celebration of the harvest and the abundance of food we are able to share with our friends and family. This Thanksgiving, take a moment to thank the farmers and ranchers who make our nation’s agricultural abundance possible. Without them, the safe, abundant and affordable food we’ll put on our tables at Thanksgiving would not be possible.

At the same time, this Thanksgiving, it is important to remember those less fortunate. Many people will donate time, food or other resources to a food bank to brighten the holiday for families in their communities, and I am proud to say that many USDA employees are among them. I am also proud that through our People’s Garden Initiative, we’ve been able to donate 3.9 million pounds of fresh produce to food banks across the country over the last few years.

Turkey Tips Step 4: Loving Your Leftovers

It’s over.

All of your guests have scraped their Thanksgiving dinner plates clean and have migrated from the dinner table to the couch.

While you may want to immediately relax and celebrate after preparing a successful meal, it’s important that you first refrigerate any leftovers within two hours. Prompt storage can prevent pathogenic bacteria that cause foodborne illness from growing on your leftovers. These bacteria can’t be smelled or tasted.

Before You Slice the Turkey, Give Thanks to Those Wild Cousins

According to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, the U.S. is the world’s largest turkey producer and largest exporter of turkey products. An estimated 46 million turkeys will show up on American tables this holiday, and most of those will come from turkey production facilities.

A much smaller percentage featured on the holiday table will be wild turkeys hunted on private and public lands. There are more than 7 million wild turkeys roaming the countryside, but their numbers were not always that robust. According to the National Wild Turkey Federation, which partners with the U.S. Forest Service, the tasty game bird native to the U.S. faced extinction in the 1930s.