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Stay Healthy this Thanksgiving: Turkey Safety Tips


Turkey is a Thanksgiving staple, but many people are anxious about preparing their turkey. Knowing how to safely thaw, prepare, stuff and cook a turkey can make it a less stressful part of the menu.

TRICARE beneficiaries can stay healthy and cook smarter with these great tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (

First, thaw the turkey at a safe temperature, since doing it at the wrong temperature can grow bacteria. To avoid this, thaw poultry in the refrigerator, cold water or a microwave oven, and stay away from dangerous temperatures. A good rule of thumb is to stay above 40 degrees Fahrenheit and below 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Bacteria can be an issue with a thawed turkey since it may be present from when the turkey was first frozen and can contaminate anything it touches, i.e. hands, utensils, and work surfaces. Thoroughly clean these areas before preparing other foods to avoid transferring bacteria from the turkey and contaminating other foods.

CDC recommends cooking stuffing outside the turkey in a separate dish. However, if it is cooked inside the turkey, stuff the bird just before it goes into the oven and make sure to use a food thermometer. The center of the stuffing must reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill all bacteria that may cause foodborne illness.

Finally, when cooking a turkey set the oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees Fahrenheit and double check that the turkey has completely thawed. Cooking times vary based on the size of the bird, but best practice is to check the turkey with a food thermometer. When the turkey has finished cooking, let it rest for 20 minutes before serving.

If food poisoning or a sudden illness or accident becomes an issue this holiday season, don’t worry, TRICARE covers emergency care for all beneficiaries. TRICARE Prime beneficiaries – including TRICARE Prime Remote, TRICARE Prime Overseas, TRICARE Prime Remote Overseas or TRICARE Young Adult-Prime – must contact their primary care manager (PCM) within 24 hours or the next business day after receiving emergency care. For more information, go to

If Prime beneficiaries opt for urgent care they must visit their PCM or get a PCM referral, even when traveling. If they don’t, they’re using the point-of-service option and will have increased out-of-pocket costs. TRICARE Standard beneficiaries can visit any authorized provider – either network or non-network – for urgent care, but will save if they choose a network provider and use the TRICARE Extra option. For more information, go to

Following these simple cooking guidelines can help ensure a safe holiday dinner. For more information on safely preparing a turkey, visit:

Last Updated 10/1/2015