Yes, there’s a limit to how long your Thanksgiving dinner can stay on the table.


The USDA wants to make sure Americans have a happy, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving. The federal entity just released a list of several crucial tips for people to keep in mind this Turkey Day, and the pointers cover everything from how to know when your turkey is fully cooked, to how long your Thanksgiving feast should be left out on the dinner table.

The USDA also announced that its Meat and Poultry Hotline is available to answer any safety questions in the days leading up to the final Thursday in November. Additionally, the agency will have experts available to answer questions on Thanksgiving Day.

For most people, the information shared by the USDA will serve as a refresher, but given that  many Americans had much different (and/or smaller) Thanksgiving celebrations last year due to COVID-19, the tips are especially pertinent. The intel is of course also very helpful to those who are planning to host Thanksgiving for the first time this year.

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving Safely

Keep reading for important Thanksgiving food and safety information directly from the USDA.

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1 Keep everything clean

If there's one thing you keep in mind as you host Thanksgiving, it's to keep everything—including your hands, utensils, and prep area—as clean as possible. This will help ensure that your food stays safe and doesn't get contaminated. "Keep bacteria out of your kitchen by washing your hands before, during, and after you handle raw food," the USDA states. "Make sure food preparation surfaces and utensils are clean."

RELATED: Hosting Thanksgiving? Make Sure You Have These 7 Kitchen Items

2 Separate your ingredients

Yes, the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and green bean casserole will all end up in your stomach by the end of the night, but as you're preparing each dish it's crucial that the ingredients remain separate. This is especially important with regards to raw meat and poultry and other foods, as raw meat can contaminate produce (and other items) with harmful bacteria. In other words, if you're using a cutting board to cut raw turkey or other meat, make sure you use a different cutting board to prep your green beans and potatoes.

3 Make sure your turkey is fully cooked

Turkey is a tricky bird to cook, especially if you're doing it for the first time or preparing a bird that's larger than what you're used to. To ensure your turkey is fully cooked, the USDA suggests enlisting a meat thermometer to take your turkey's temperature. "The recommended internal temperature must reach 165 degrees F in three places: the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh, and the innermost part of the wing," the USDA shares.

RELATED: How to Tell if a Turkey Is Done Without a Thermometer

4 Don't linger at the dinner table

According to the USDA, your Thanksgiving feast should be on the dinner table for no longer than two hours "before it becomes unsafe, and bacteria starts to multiply." To avoid unnecessarily tossing any potential Turkey Day leftovers, the USDA recommends you only "put out just enough food for your guests and place the rest in your fridge in shallow containers."

For questions or additional turkey tips, Americans can contact the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or email to reach a food safety expert.