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Expert Tips for Thanksgiving Food Safety

Everyone’s favorite eating holiday is here! Get ready for cozy family gatherings, Aunt Myrtle’s cranberry relish, a big ol’ turkey and ... salmonella? Not if we can help it.

a roasted turkey on a table

[Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series designed to help people avoid foodborne illness during the holidays. You can find other posts in the series – on everything from eggnog to tamales – here.]

Thank goodness for Thanksgiving. We love a day entirely dedicated to cooking, nibbling, stirring, tasting, toasting, talking and eating. Still, even the most seasoned chefs have questions when it comes to pulling off this once-a-year feast.

Our resident food-safety expert and NC State Extension specialist Ben Chapman shares research-based tips on how to buy, thaw, prep and cook your Thanksgiving feast so everyone stays happy and healthy. Check out our quick videos below.

Psst: You can find more recipes and helpful videos on Homegrown, NC State Extension’s site dedicated to growing, cooking and preserving the best our state has to offer.

Buying and Thawing Your Turkey

How long can I keep a turkey in the freezer? How long can you keep a fresh turkey in the refrigerator before cooking it? How many days before Thanksgiving should you start thawing your turkey? Can I thaw my turkey on the counter? Can I thaw it in the microwave?

Why Not to Wash Your Turkey

Should I rinse my turkey in the sink before I cook it? Spoiler alert: Nope.

How to Safely Brine Your Turkey

What the heck is brining? How do I do it without making a mess?

How to Tell When Your Turkey Is Done

How long will it take to cook this thing? How do I know if it’s done? Should I trust the little plastic pop-up thermometer that came in the bird?

Tips for Timing Your Meal

How do I cook everything with just one oven? What should I cook first?

How to Safely Prep Your Pies

I don’t have room in my fridge for all these pies! What do I do?

Safely Storing Your Leftovers

These “In the Kitchen” segment of Homegrown were filmed in the Dinah E. Gore Teaching and Research Kitchens at NC State University. The state-of-the-art kitchen complex was designed to enhance and extend our work in teaching, research and extension.