Thanksgiving is this Thursday, Nov. 23, and many Mesa County families will be preparing more food than usual, leaving more questions than answers for some. Mesa County Public Health can help your family have a food-safe holiday.

Check out some common Q & A about food preparation, cook and storage before your big meal.


  • Do I need to wash my turkey before cooking it?
    • No – washing raw poultry can cause bacteria to spread up to three feet away.
  • Is it ok to let my turkey thaw-out on the counter-top?
    • No – use a refrigerator or cold water method to defrost a turkey for an even thaw.
      • Keep in mind that refrigerated thawing will take at least one day for every four pounds of meat.
  • Where should I store my turkey if I run out of room in the refrigerator?
    • You can keep your turkey, and other holiday foods, cold in a cooler with ice if you run out of room in your refrigerator.


  • Can I cook my turkey, even if it’s frozen?
    • Yes, but cooking time will be about 50 percent longer.
  • How do I know when my turkey is ready? Is the pop-up thermometer a good indicator?
    • Your turkey needs to reach 165°F before you take it out of the oven – you can’t tell by just the color.
    • The only way to be sure your turkey is fully cooked is to use a meat thermometer. Don’t trust the pop-up thermometer.
      • Use your thermometer in three locations – the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing and the thickest part of the breast.


  • How long can I leave food out after my meal?
    • Food needs to be refrigerated or frozen within two hours of being cooked.
      • The temperature in your refrigerator should be set at or below 40°F and your freezer at or below 0°F.
  • How long after Thanksgiving can I eat my leftovers?
    • You can eat leftovers from a holiday meal for up to four days when stored in the refrigerator.
    • You can eat turkey meat that has been stored in the freezer for up to four months.