Turkey Dinner Preparations to Make a Safe Thanksgiving - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Turkey Dinner Preparations to Make a Safe Thanksgiving

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KENNEWICK, Wash. - Less than a week away from Thanksgiving and families should start taking precautions before preparing their turkey dinner.  Something as simple as thawing your turkey improperly can turn Thanksgiving into a holiday nightmare.

Health expert Gina Hinton with the Benton Franklin Health District says the holiday's are the busiest times of the year when it comes to food-poisoning. 

She says refrigerating the turkey is the safest way.  For every five pounds of turkey, it should stay in the fridge for about 24 hours.  For example, a 20 pound turkey will need to start thawing in the refrigerator 4 to 5 days before Thanksgiving Day.

Another method is to put it in cold water for up to 12 hours depending on the size of the turkey, changing the water every half hour, and making sure to clean the sink before and after.

And if picking at the turkey meat all day is a holiday tradition, Hinton says it's not a good idea.

"People don't typically put their food in the refrigerator or they're leaving it out all day so they can pick at it. This all increases the potential for contamination of bacteria in the food," said Hinton.

Hinton also recommends not keeping leftovers out for more than two hours unless you have a way of keeping it hot.  Washing your hands can prevent any bacteria from reaching other foods or dishes.  Also be sure the turkey is cooked to at least 165 to 180 degrees before serving.