Talking Turkey: How to have a safe Thanksgiving while prepping big meal

Nothing will bring the festivities and family get-togethers to a fast close as getting sick from a big holiday meal.

You can't stop someone from overeating, but you can take steps to make sure they don't get sick because of a preparation issue.

The United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, has come up with five tips to follow while making Thanksgiving dinner.

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1. Wash your hands

Always wash your hands when handling food. It will help cut back on foodborne illness. If you're handling raw meat, poultry, seafood or egg products, it is really important.

So how do you wash your hands the right way?

  • Wet them with clean, running water.
  • Use soap and lather them, making sure to get the suds on the back of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Scrub for at least 20 seconds. Try singing the entire "Happy Birthday" song two times.
  • Rinse your hands under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands on a clean towel.

2. Prevent cross-contamination

Make sure you clean and sanitize where your raw turkey comes in contact with surfaces. Uncooked turkeys could have salmonella and campylobacter, which are two common causes of foodborne illnesses.

To clean the surface, use soap and warm water then to sanitize use either a chlorine bleach solution or an alcohol-based one to kill germs that could have been left behind.

3. Cook turkey to 165 degrees Fahrenheit 

Get a food thermometer and take the bird's temperature, testing it in three areas: the thicket part of the breast, the innermost part of the wing and the innermost part of the thigh. When all three are 165 degrees, you're good to eat.

4. Follow two-hour rule

Food is only safe on a buffet or table for two hours. After that, the temperatures have fallen enough to allow bacteria to multiply rapidly, making it unsafe.

If you are packing up leftovers, then get them in the fridge before the two-hour mark, and put them in small, shallow containers. If it has been longer than two hours, then throw it away.

5. Ask questions

Don't be afraid to ask if you don't know the answer to food safety questions. The USDA has a Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). Or you can chat with an expert at from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday. They will also be on the hotline on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. EST.

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