At some point in life, nearly everyone attempts his or her first turkey and Thanksgiving Day meal.
Because of that — and the potential to botch it royally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture wants novices and even some pros to know there is help out there, and it’s just a smartphone app away. That app will connect cooks to the Agriculture Department’s 30-year Meat and Poultry Hotline.
Experts can walk people through the most frantic kitchen catastrophes. More than anything, the hosts of Thanksgiving Day meals — and the mounds of leftovers that follow — want the food that guests will eat to be well-cooked and safe to prevent food borne illnesses.
The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety Education staff reports that more than 46 million turkeys will be cooked and eaten in the U.S. during the Thursday holiday. The trick is trying to figure out when the big bird is done and not letting it get too dry and overcooked.
The Food Safety Education staff recommends that cooks use a food thermometer to “cook like a pro.” Put the thermometer in the innermost part of the bird’s thigh, the innermost part of the wing and the thickest part of the breast.
Read the thermometer to make sure the turkey has reached a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Only then can cooks take the bird out of the oven without worry.
The Agriculture Department advises cooks to plan ahead for that Thanksgiving Day meal. It also recommends using the FoodKeeper smartphone app, offering storage advice on more than 400 different food and beverage items.
It can help Thanksgiving Day hosts decide what leftovers to keep and what to toss.
For folks who aren’t in the high-tech world of smartphones and need real people to talk to, the Agriculture Department Meat & Poultry Hotline is available at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). The hotline has been around for 30 years with experts offering food preparation and safety advice.
Last year for the Thanksgiving holiday, experts fielded more than 3,000 calls mostly about the big holiday feast. Cooks can also chat live with a food safety expert at AskKaren.gov. That’s available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Standard Time Monday through Friday in English and Spanish.
On Thanksgiving Day, the Meat & Poultry Hotline is open for calls from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Central Standard time.
People with additional food safety questions can go to FoodSafety.gov. It’s on Twitter at @USDAFoodSafety and Facebook at Facebook.com/FoodSafety.gov.