Mitzi Parker: The clock is ticking … countdown to your Thanksgiving feast!

Published 4:12 pm Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is so close already? If you haven’t started planning yet, here are some ways to ensure a delicious and safe meal that you can be thankful for.

Clear the ‘fridge!
Use up as many foods in your refrigerator as you can right now. This will free up space for your turkey and all of your tasty leftovers. If you’re not sure if a specific food is still good to eat, call me at 229-924-4476. Another great resource is the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (1-888-MPHotline), it’s open year-round from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. ET Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET for calls or email at Help is available in both English and in Spanish.

Gather equipment and ingredients
• Will your turkey fit in your roasting pan?
• Do you have enough cooking and serving vessels for all of the dishes planned? Make sure they are all clean and ready to use.
• Do you know where your food thermometer is? Is it calibrated to read accurately and ready to use?
• Do you have all the ingredients for the recipes you are preparing?
• Don’t leave perishable foods out at room temperature while you go to the store for the ingredients you forgot!
Buying the turkey
• Allow 1 pound of turkey per person. The quality is almost equal between fresh or frozen turkeys, so buy whatever is your personal preference. If buying a fresh turkey, check the date on the package. It is a good idea to buy it no more than two days in advance.

Cooking the turkey
• Use an oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees F.
• Cook your turkey to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F. You should take the temperature of ALL of the following parts of your turkey:
— The innermost part of the thigh
— The innermost part of the wing and
— The thickest part of the breast.
• An unstuffed turkey can take up to three hours to cook so plan ahead and your meal will be right on time!
Special thanks to Taylor Burrage for this information. She is a student in the UGA Department  of Foods and Nutrition and a practicum student for UGA Extension and Judy Harrison, professor and Extension Food Safety specialist.

Mitzi Parker is Sumter County agent, Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Contact her at 229-924-4476.