Preparation for the Thanksgiving meal often begins weeks in advance. From inviting the guests to planning the menu, the daunting task of having a memorable day is forefront. Of course, memorable, means having good memories, not bad ones of course.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a great number of people in the country still cook their own Thanksgiving meal. While the number of people who go out to eat has increased, almost 57 percent still host their own meal.

Since many people worry about the possible unforeseen issues with Thanksgiving meal whether it be an accident or catastrophe, the University of Missouri Extension wants people to take in account foodborne illnesses. The extension has offered ways to deter this problem so it doesn’t spoil the biggest feast of the year.

With Thanksgiving coming up, the extension offers these safety tips for those planning to prepare a traditional turkey dinner.


If thawing in cold water, change the water every 30 minutes so the outer layer of turkey won’t get warm enough to support microbial growth.

Don’t rinse turkey and other meats before cooking. To determine if the turkey is safely cooked, use a food thermometer to make sure the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast has reached a minimum temperature of 165 degrees F.

To stuff or not to stuff

The safest method is to cook stuffing outside the bird. If you do choose to stuff your turkey, stuff it loosely just before cooking and make sure the stuffing is moist. Like the turkey, stuffing should be cooked to at least 165 degrees.

Side dishes and desserts

Egg dishes: Any dishes containing eggs, such as escalloped corn, should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees.

Raw produce: Don’t chop foods that will be eaten raw on the same cutting boards you use for meats without washing the boards thoroughly between uses.

If produce is not pre-rinsed, rinse carefully and scrub off any visible soil with a produce brush.

Pumpkin pie: Pies and any other baked goods with fillings made of eggs and milk, including pumpkin pies and cheesecake, need to reach an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees. Refrigerate after baking or purchasing.


Refrigerate the turkey (with meat removed from the carcass) and stuffing separately in shallow containers within two hours of cooking. If sending leftovers home with guests who will be traveling more than two hours, make sure leftovers are packed in a cooler with ice or ice packs.

Leftover turkey will keep in the fridge for three to four days, but gravy and stuffing will only keep for one or two days. You can also safely freeze leftovers, but use them within two to six months for best quality. Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees.