As Louisiana families prepare to cook their Thanksgiving feasts, Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Mike Strain has safety tips for home chefs.

Strain said cooks should make sure the turkey is fully defrosted before it goes in the oven. But he says it’s important not to wash the turkey before cooking.

“Sixty-eight percent of people wash the whole turkey before cooking it, but the USDA does not recommend that because you can cause bacteria to spread up to three feet away,” Strain said.

Strain says it will take 24 hours for every five pounds of weight for a turkey to safely defrost in the refrigerator. If defrosting in cold water, he says people should change the water every 30 minutes. He says the only way to determine if a turkey is fully cooked is with a meat thermometer.

“A whole turkey should be checked in three locations- the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing, and the thickest part of the breast. Your thermometer should register 165 degress Fahrenheit in all of these places,” Strain said.

Strain says the juices will only run clear if the turkey is overcooked. He advises people to cut the turkey off the bone and refrigerate within two hours of cooking.

“Leftovers will last up to four days in the refrigerator. So if you know you won’t use them right away, pack them into freezer bags or airtight containers and freeze,” Strain said.

Strain says leftover turkey lasts up to four months in the freezer. He says people can get more tips at FoodSafety.gov.