As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, new and seasoned chefs alike must be especially careful as to not serve up food poisoning.
Foodborne illnesses in the United States result in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths yearly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Laura Scott, with the United States Department of Agriculture, said one of the most common ways people can get sick is through the holiday's main dish: turkey.
Her top tip when it comes to turkey is to make sure to use a food thermometer to know the bird is cooked thoroughly.
"That's the only way to tell that it's done and actually, with it being such a large piece of meat. There's really no other way you're going to know," Scott said.
She adds that the thermometer must go into several parts of the bird and reach a specific temperature before it can be deemed safe.
"You want to use the food thermometer in three parts of the bird. The thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the wing and innermost part of the thigh, and make sure they all reach 165 degrees," she said.
Chefs may also want to think twice before rinsing their turkey when preparing the main dish.
"Another thing is that you actually don't need to wash or rinse the turkey. That can actually spread dangerous bacteria to other parts of your kitchen. So we recommend not doing that. The only way to remove the bacteria from the bird is to actually cook it off," Scott said.
The USDA also does not recommend stuffing the turkey, and Scott said it's actually best to prepare the stuffing separately.
"The reason it can be unsafe is because stuffing the bird, maybe the night before, or a little before you put it in the oven, the bacteria can really grow inside the stuffing, which is moist inside of the raw bird so that can be unsafe," Scott said.
However, Scott offered some tips for those who still plan on moving forward with stuffing their turkey this Thursday.
"Stuff the bird right before you put it in the oven and then afterward, use a food thermometer and make sure the stuffing reaches 165 degrees," Scott recommended.
Those celebrating with guests arriving at different times should follow what's called the "two-hour rule" when it comes to leaving out food.
"After two hours, your food can enter what we call the danger zone between 40 and 140 degrees, where dangerous bacteria can grow," Scott said. "So within two hours, get your turkey carved up into small portions, put it in shallow containers and put it in the refrigerator."
This rule applies not only to the main dishes, but to the sides as well. Scott recommends putting all sides into shallow containers in the fridge, allowing them to cool off quicker.
When following these safety tips, Scott said leftovers can safely last in the fridge for up to four days.