turkeyThe holiday season is here, a time to gather with family and friends to enjoy fun, food, and laughter. The Oneida County Health Department wants to take this time to remind everyone to keep food safety on the top of your TO-DO list.


  •  Thawing – The safest way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator. Allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey. A 20-pound turkey should thaw within 4 to 5 days. Quick thawing of turkeys may be done under cold running water, but the turkey must be cooked immediately after thawing. Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound to thaw in cold water.
  •  Preparation – Do not wash your turkey. Splash and spray during rinsing may spread bacteria throughout the kitchen area. Remember to wash your hands often with hot soapy water. Use clean cutting boards for each task and wipe your counters with hot soapy water frequently.
  • Stuffing – For optimal safety and uniform doneness, cook stuffing separately. However, if stuffing a turkey, it’s essential to use a food thermometer to make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.
  • Cooking – The turkey is cooked when all parts are at least 165°F. Follow cooking instructions on the turkey label. A stuffed, 20-pound turkey will take about 5 hours to cook at 325°F, and an unstuffed turkey will take approximately 4 ½ hours to cook at 325°F . Use a thermometer to check the temperature in several areas of the turkey to ensure it is fully cooked. Let turkey stand 10-20 minutes before carving.
  • Serving and leftovers – Keep food out of the danger zone of 40°F to 140°F, where bacteria can grow rapidly. After dinner, refrigerate all leftovers within 2 hours of cooking.  Place food into shallow containers or pans for quick cooling. Use leftovers within 3-4 days or freeze these foods. Reheat thoroughly to a temperature of 165 °F or until hot and steaming.


The department emphasizes four basic rules of food safety at all times: Clean/Separate/Cook/Chill

  • Clean – Frequently wash hands. Clean food-contact surfaces, such as knives, cutting boards and counters, after each use. If not cleaned often, harmful bacteria can be spread by hands, utensils, cloths & sponges throughout the kitchen.
  • Separate – Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs separate from other foods at the grocery store and in the refrigerator. Store raw meat on the bottom of the refrigerator. Use separate plates and cutting boards for raw and ready-to-eat food.
  • Cook – Cook food to at least 165°F. Use a food thermometer to check food temperatures. Food is cooked completely when heated for a long enough time at a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria that can cause food borne illness. Hold hot food at 140°F or above.
  • Chill – Don’t leave food out of the refrigerator for more than one hour. Thaw or marinate food in the refrigerator. Maintain refrigerator at 40°F or lower. Discard leftovers within 3-5 days.

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Contact Us

Oneida County Health Department
100 West Keenan Street
Rhinelander, WI 54501
Hours: 8:00am - 4:30pm Mon-Fri

Telephone (715) 369-6111
Fax (715) 369-6112

To report a public health emergency or to report a notifiable disease after hours, please contact dispatch at 715-361-5100.

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