News Release
 November 6, 2006
CONTACT: Tracy Pawelski

Food handling tips to keep in mind this holiday season

Williamsville, NY - Thanksgiving is less than a month away and turkey will be the signature dish on many holiday tables. But how big of a turkey should you buy? TOPS Markets suggests about 1-1/4 pound per person or 1-1/2 pound per person if you plan to enjoy those favorite leftover turkey sandwiches the rest of the holiday weekend!

TOPS Markets and Martin's Super Food Stores also want to remind customers that safe food handling should be a priority, especially during the holidays. As families busily prepare their turkey feast, TOPS and Martin's offer turkey tips to keep consumers aware of the dangers of food-borne illness that can be overlooked during this hectic time.

Defrosting the bird

Allow enough time to defrost your turkey in the refrigerator; never thaw at room temperature. Make sure to place the turkey on a tray or dish in your fridge, since it will lose some of its natural moisture while thawing - which for large turkeys can take a few days. For example, a 20-24 pound turkey may take 4-5 days to thaw. If you need to thaw your turkey more quickly, place the bird in its unopened bag in the sink or a large container and cover with cold water. Change water every 30 minutes to keep cold. Turkey will thaw in roughly 4-12 hours, depending on the size of the bird. Both methods keep poultry cold while thawing, which prevents bacterial growth. Do not thaw at room temperature because the surface gets too warm before the inside thaws. Also be sure to always wash your hands as well as the utensil or surface used to thaw the turkey with soap and hot water to prevent cross-contamination with your other Thanksgiving foods.

If you choose to buy a fresh turkey, make sure to freeze it if you do not plan to cook the bird within 2 days of purchase. Follow these tips:

Store fresh turkey in its original wrapping.

Have a cold refrigerator (40 degress).

Purchase a turkey with a sell-by date of no more than two days before the day you plan to cook the bird.

Preparing your turkey - To stuff or not to stuff?

Wash turkey thoroughly in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. If you want less fat, turkey may be skinned before cooking. The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not recommend stuffing a turkey. If you decide to, it's important to take extra care. Stuff your turkey right before you are ready to cook it and make sure the stuffing is in the bird loosely so it will heat through completely. If it is packed too tightly, it may not get hot enough to prevent bacterial growth. Stuffing should reach a recommended internal temperature of 165 degress.

Turkey should always be cooked until well done and no longer pink inside. For best results, use a meat thermometer inserted in the meatiest part of the turkey. When the turkey is done, internal temperatures should be 170 degress for turkey breasts and 180 degrees for whole turkey and other parts. Turkey can be cooked from the frozen state, but allow about one and a half times the normal cooking period. If your bird is not served immediately, either keep cooked turkey hot, between 140 and 160 degress, or refrigerate it at 40 degrees or lower. When transporting cooked turkey to another dining site, place it in an insulated container or ice chest until ready to eat.

Got leftovers?

Remember the two-hour rule when serving your Thanksgiving dinner. Perishable foods need to be removed from the table and refrigerated promptly. TOPS recommends a couple safety tips to keep your leftovers fresh and ready for those turkey sandwiches:

Cut turkey into small pieces.

Refrigerate stuffing and turkey separately in shallow containers within 2 hours of cooking.

Use leftover turkey and stuffing within 3-4 days; gravy within 2 days. Or, you may freeze foods for later use. Cooked turkey, gravy and stuffing should be packaged separately and may be frozen in foil or freezer bags for up to 1 month.

For additional holiday food safety tips, visit the TOPS website, or Martin's at

Tops Markets, LLC, headquartered in Williamsville, NY, is one of four retail-operating companies under Ahold USA and is a division of Giant Food Stores in Carlisle, PA. Tops currently operates 114 Tops Markets, 4 Martin's Super Food Stores. With nearly 16,000 associates, Tops serves a three state market area. For more information about Tops Markets or Martin's Super Food Stores, visit the companies' websites at or


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