HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – Are you cooking the turkey this Thanksgiving? If so, here is some important information from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service to help you in the kitchen.

Can I refrigerate a whole cooked turkey?
According to the USDA, the answer is no. If your table does not finish the whole turkey, carve the rest of it before putting it in the fridge. Smaller pieces cool faster, which is important, as slower cooling puts the meat at risk for bacteria growth.

Is it safe to thaw a turkey on the counter?
According to the USDA, the answer is no. After the turkey sits at room temperature for more than two hours, bacteria will grow rapidly. You can safely thaw a turkey in the refrigerator, cold-water, or the microwave. In the refrigerator, the USDA recommends thawing 24 hours per every four to five pounds. If you choose to thaw by cold-water allow 30 minutes per every pound of turkey and keep the turkey in it’s wrapping. In addition, they say every 30 minutes, you have to change the water and make sure to cook it right after it has thawed.

Does my pop-up timer tell me when the turkey is fully cooked?
Do you see a plastic pop-up timer in your turkey? If so, they are a helpful tool in the kitchen on turkey day, but are not 100% effective. The USDA recommends checking the internal temperature in a few places with a food thermometer to make sure the bird has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit. The three places are: the thickest part of the turkey breast, middle of the thigh, and the middle of the wing.

What are other safety tips for cooking turkey?
The USDA wants to remind the public about four safety steps: clean, separate, cook, and chill.

  1. Keep your hands clean and wash hands prior to cooking and touching food.
  2. Make sure to separate raw meat from other items in the kitchen.
  3. Turkey needs to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit in order for it to be safe to eat.
  4. Do not leave your turkey out for hours at the table. Put your turkey in the refrigerator after two hours.

For more information, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or email MPHotline@usda.gov to reach a food safety expert or chat live at ask.usda.gov from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. The Meat and Poultry Hotline is also open on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Time.