Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill: 4 rules for safely preparing Thanksgiving meals

Thanksgiving may look a little different for families this year, as gatherings will be smaller due to the coronavirus pandemic and there may be less preparation for food. But there's still tips to follow to make sure your Thanksgiving cooking is safe and healthy.
"COVID is not foodborne. We know it's a respiratory disease, but that doesn't mean to neglect your food. That means to make sure you still take care of your food and have a good focus on food safety,” says Dr. Mindy Brashears, the USDA's under secretary for food safety.
Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill:
Dr. Brashears says there are four simple areas to remember when prepping your meals.
"Clean, separate, cook, chill. And these guidelines really help you all the way through the process,” said Dr. Brashears.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's breaks down those four areas on its website. Clean - make sure to wash your hands and cooking area often. The USDA says to lather your hands for 20 seconds, which will also prevent any cross-contamination. Separate - make sure not to cross-contaminate while handling ingredients. Cook - Dr. Brashears says to make sure to check the temperature of your turkey in the thickest areas and to set your oven temperature to no less than 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Chill - make sure your food is refrigerated properly.
Thawing the turkey:
Dr. Brashears also offered guidance on safely thawing your turkey. She says the first step to prep is to thaw your turkey in the refrigerator in cold water. You will need to thaw the turkey for one to three days if your turkey is 4 to 12 pounds and thaw the turkey for three to four days if it’s 12 to 16 pounds.
"If you forget, you can also put it in the sink with cold water, but you need to change that cold water out every 30 minutes because if the water gets warm then the bacteria or germs will start to grow on the turkey,” says Dr. Brashears.