ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — With just about a week before Thanksgiving, it's time to think about all that cooking and baking you'll be doing. But when you're prepping that turkey, even at home, it's good to know how to do it the right way because it's easier than you think to spread bacteria. 

We met food safety expert Danielle Egger, with Florida Food Safety Systems in St. Petersburg, in the Datz kitchen. She says start thinking about thawing that turkey a week to five days before you want to cook it. 

"The best place to put it is in the refrigerator on the bottom (shelf). We also recommend that you put it in a pan so that any juices that might drip off or if this container comes open any juices aren't going to contaminate anything that might be below it."

Before doing any cooking, sanitize all surfaces and of course, wash your hands. And contrary to popular belief, Egger says DO NOT rinse the turkey. 

"Some people believe that that actually washes off the bacteria. That's not necessarily true. That can actually spread the bacteria from the water droplets going all over the place."

Also, Egger says it's a good idea to have different color cutting boards for different types of foods. "That way there's no risk of cross-contamination, even if it's washed and sanitized. If you're using a separate cutting board at least you'll know there's no cross-contamination that way."

Then cook the turkey to at least 165 degrees. "What that means is you're going to have to use a thermometer and you'll have to take a temperature in the thickest, meatiest part. That's usually the turkey breast."

Finally, once you've eaten that wonderful meal, don't leave it out too long. 

 "Two hours maximum would be the time that you want to leave this out. The reason for that is because between 135 and 70 degrees, bacteria start to grow exponentially. They reproduce a lot!" 

As for the leftover turkey, Egger says 7 days max in the fridge!  If you freeze it, it will keep for about 6-12 months.

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