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Keeping Food Safe Over the Holidays
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An offer to host a holiday meal need not add unnecessary stress to your life. From purchasing the turkey to handling the leftovers, there are several good rules to follow.
Q:   What is the best way to thaw a frozen turkey?
A:   To thaw, place a frozen turkey (in its store wrap) in a shallow pan or on a baking sheet with a lip to catch drips in the refrigerator. Allow one day of thawing time for each 4-5 pounds of turkey.
Q:   What is the recommended roasting time and temperature?
A:   Set the oven at 325 degrees F. Allow 20 minutes per pound and add 45 minutes for a stuffed turkey. You should also allow 15-20 minutes for a turkey to set up after it is tested done (165 degrees internal temperature) to make carving easier. Keep the turkey covered during the holding time. Roasting is a slow process, so it is not necessary to preheat the oven.
Q:   Should all meat be removed from the carcass before the meal?
A:   Removing meat from the carcass immediately after the meal is recommended. Place leftovers in a shallow pan to allow for fast, uniform cooling. Covering leftovers prevents flavor migration and reduces the risk of cross contamination.
Q:   How quickly should leftovers be used?
A:   Three days is the general rule. If leftovers will not be used within three days, they should be wrapped, labeled, and dated before being frozen for a future meal. If well wrapped, cooked turkey generally freezes well for 3 to 4 months.
Q:   Should leftovers be reheated?
A:   Turkey may be eaten cold or hot. Reheating leftovers such as turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy or a cooked vegetable casserole to 165 degrees is recommended. My personal suggestion is to only reheat what you will eat at one meal as the food should only be reheated once.
Q:   Should leftover pies be refrigerated?
A:   A pumpkin pie, which is a custard-style pie containing eggs, should be covered and refrigerated. Fruit pie, which typically is prepared without eggs, can be covered and stored on the counter.
Q:   If pumpkin pie should be refrigerated, then why are some pumpkin pies being sold at supermarkets not refrigerated?
A:   Commercial pies that are not refrigerated typically are made from a commercial recipe in which the ingredients are shelf-stable. Refrigerating the pies at home is still a good idea.
Q:   Do you have any tips for getting everything ready on time?
A:   Plan ahead and divide the menu items into three categories: Make ahead; stove top; and side dishes such as salad, relish tray or vegetable casserole that others bring. Sharing meal preparations not only reduces holiday meal costs for the host, but also shares the pleasure of preparing a meal for family and friends.
Enjoy the holidays with your family!
Donna Krug is the Family and Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Barton County. You may reach her at: (620)793-1910 or