By Jessica Aragona-Shaw, MS, RD

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it is important to remember the rules for preparing food safely during the busy holiday season.


If you have purchased a frozen turkey, be sure to thaw the bird adequately before cooking. There are three ways to thaw your turkey safely: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave.

In the refrigerator (40 degrees Fahrenheit or below): Allow approximately 24 hours for every four to five pounds of bird. For example, a 12- to 16-pound turkey would require three to four days and a 16- to 20-pound bird would take four to five days to thaw.

In cold water: Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound. A 12- to 16- pound turkey will take about six to eight hours and a 16- to 20-pound bird needs eight to 10 hours. Seal the turkey securely in plastic to make sure no water leaks in and use only cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes and cook the turkey immediately after thawing.

In the microwave: Before buying a turkey, check your microwave owner’s manual for the size turkey that will fit in your oven, minutes per pound and power level to use for thawing. Remove all outside wrapping from the turkey, including the wire that holds the legs together. Place on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices. Cook the turkey immediately after thawing and do not refreeze or refrigerate a raw turkey after thawing in the microwave.

Always wash hands, utensils, surfaces and anything else that comes into contact with raw turkey and its juices with soap and water.


Stuffing can be made with everything from bread crumbs and rice to apples and cranberries. To make sure your stuffing is safe and cooked to a proper temperature, stuffing a turkey is not recommended. For more even heating, cook the stuffing separately and use a meat thermometer to ensure the center of the stuffing reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit before removing from the oven.

If you do stuff your turkey, do it just before roasting and stuff it loosely. Turkey and stuffing are safe to eat when they reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Refrigerate leftover poultry and stuffing separately and throw away any food that has been unrefrigerated for more than two hours. Use refrigerated turkey and stuffing within three to four days. If you freeze leftovers, use them within two to six months.

For more information on food safety and your Thanksgiving meal visit www.

About: Jessica Aragona-Shaw is a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant specializing in holistic nutrition practices. As The Holistic Nutritionist, Jessica teaches patients practical ways to incorporate healthy practices into their daily lifestyle. In addition to working with patients, Jessica is a published writer and educator; having taught classes and spoken at various seminars and conferences along the west coast. As a practitioner, Jessica is dedicated to clarity and communication through education. Jessica earned her Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition Science from Russell Sage College in Upstate New York and a Master’s Degree in Dietetics from the University of Vermont in Burlington. Jessica has a clinical background in oncology and gastroenterology which helps her fully understand potential contraindications and drug-nutrient interactions so that she can customize nutrition care plans to meet a patient’s specific needs and preferences.

Contact Jessica by email at: JessicaANutrition@