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Tips for cooking a safe bird - safe holiday cooking

KEEP your Thanksgiving poison-free. The U.S. Department of Agriculture outlines foodhandling tips to help cooks prepare turkeys that won't cause sickness. By following four steps--clean, separate, cook and chill--Thanksgiving dinner can be delicious and safe.

Clean--Wash hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling poultry. Thoroughly clean cutting boards, work surfaces and utensils that come in contact with poultry.

Separate--Keep poultry away from food that won't be cooked. Never place cooked food on an unwashed plate that previously held raw poultry.

Cook--Use a food thermometer to ensure that the turkey has been cooked at a temperature that's high enough to destroy bacteria. The temperature inside a whole turkey should reach 180 degrees Fahrenheit between the breast and the innermost part of the thigh. The turkey breast temperature should reach 170 degrees in the thickest part of the breast. Turkey thighs and wings should reach 180 degrees in the thickest part of the meat. Stuffing, cooked alone or in the bird, should reach 165 degrees in the center.

Chill--Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours to keep foodborne bacteria from growing.

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