Food Safety for the Holidays

November 16, 2022
| Created by Marisa Gutierrez MS, RDN, CD

Many upcoming holidays involve food in the festivities. Food safety is essential to ensure maximum celebration without foodborne illness. Here are some tips:  

Cleaning and sanitation

Before starting to cook, be sure to wash your hands! Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and running water before preparing food, before eating, and when switching tasks. Ensure you are using separate clean cutting boards for raw meat and other products. Treat raw dough and batter as you would raw meat; uncooked flour and eggs can contain harmful bacteria. 

proper thawing techniques

When you’re making cooking plans, don’t forget to consider thawing time. Place frozen items in the refrigerator with enough time to thaw all the way.  Whole turkey takes about 24 hours per 4-5 lb. When thawing meat, place it on the lowest shelf with something underneath to catch any drippings. If you are short on time, you can use the cold water or microwave method, but foods must immediately be cooked. For the cold water method, place foods in a leak-proof plastic bag; submerge in cold tap water and change the water every 30 minutes. For the microwave method, review your owner’s manual as instructions vary based on power of the microwave and weight of the product.

Cooking to safe temperatures

Whether it’s turkey, a beef roast, or tur-duck-en, be sure it is fully cooked. When taking a temperature, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the dish. Most thermometers have an indent to let you know where they take the temperature; make sure this part is in the dish, but the thermometer is not touching the pan. The safe temperature for meats is below. 


While it can be tempting to chat once dinner is over and clean up later, make sure food is staying out of the temperature danger zone (41-135 degrees Fahrenheit) by putting it away promptly. Perishable foods should be refrigerated within 2 hours. For large batches of food like soups and casseroles, separating it into smaller containers can ensure it cools down faster. When reheating leftovers, ensure the dish reaches a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 

This holiday season, give the gift of safe foods. If you have specific questions about food safety or would like individualized guidance in nutrition, reach out to the Harmons dietitians at