Christmas food safety

Our ham and turkey food safety tips.

20dec christmas food safety hero

Don’t give the gift of foodborne illness this festive season.


Choose the right-sized ham or turkey for the number of people you’re feeding. Some leftover meat makes for easy meals after Christmas, but you don’t want too much.

Cooked turkey shouldn’t be kept more than two days. Ham – if stored correctly – should be eaten or frozen within two weeks.

Buy fresh turkey as close to Christmas as possible and store it on the bottom shelf of your fridge. Make sure your fridge is at a temperature of 2 to 4℃.

Defrosting frozen turkey

Allow 24 hours for each 2 to 2.5kg of turkey. So, for example, a frozen 5kg bird takes about two days to thaw. Defrost the turkey in its original wrapping on a tray on your fridge’s bottom shelf.

Check it’s fully defrosted before you cook it by inserting a skewer through to the bone at the breast and thigh (the thickest parts of the bird). If the skewer goes in easily, the turkey’s ready to cook.



When cooking turkey, follow the cooking instructions. Most turkeys need at least 2 hours 40 minutes cooking time. Big birds will need longer.

Some whole turkeys come with a “pop-up button” that tells you when the bird is cooked. But the safest way to check is to insert a meat thermometer into a thigh (make sure it doesn’t touch the bone). When fully cooked, the turkey should be 75℃ or above. If you don’t have a thermometer, make sure the juices run clear with no signs of pink.

Stuffing your turkey will extend the cooking time (roughly 5 minutes for each kilogram of turkey – so usually, an extra 20 to 30 minutes). Alternatively, you can cook the stuffing separately.


A vacuum-packed cooked ham can be eaten without further cooking. However, if you like to glaze your ham and serve it hot, cook it at 160℃ for 20 minutes per kilogram. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature reaches at least 60℃.

Tip: If you’ve been sick in the lead-up to Christmas, get somebody else to prepare and cook the meal for you.


When it comes to leftovers:

  • Cool them as quickly as possible and refrigerate within two hours.
  • Reheated poultry and stuffing must be heated until it’s steaming hot right through.
  • Don’t reheat leftovers more than once.
  • Eat any leftovers within two days.
  • A cooked ham will last up to two weeks in the fridge if stored properly. Keep the ham covered with a clean damp tea towel – and change it every day. Cut off and freeze any meat you can’t use in time.

Wash those hands

Don’t forget to wash hands before preparing or handling food, and after handling raw meat, poultry or vegetables with soil on them. Wash hands with soap and hot water for 20 seconds, then dry them for 20 seconds on a clean dry towel or paper towel.

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