(WKBN) – Thanksgiving is just four days away, and if you’re in charge of cooking this year, you should already be prepping the turkey.

The Cleveland Clinic has ways to ensure you and your guests don’t get foodborne illnesses on Thursday.

It is crucial to pay close attention to the temperature of the turkey. Most people will buy their turkey frozen, but they shouldn’t wait to start the thawing process.

It is safer to defrost the turkey in the fridge, preferably below 40 degrees.

“We really don’t want it to reach between 40 and 140 — that room temperature, that danger zone, which is when bacteria can grow,” said Dr. Baruch Fertel, of the Cleveland Clinic.

It is recommended to allow 24 hours of thawing for every five pounds. For a 20-pound turkey, you should move that bird to the fridge.

Never leave a raw turkey out at room temperature for more than two hours.

As for Turkey Day, there are some things to keep in mind.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not recommend prepping or washing the turkey in the sink. This is to avoid spreading bacteria.

The USDA found that 60 percent of kitchen sinks were contaminated with germs after participants washed or rinsed poultry.

If you do wash your turkey in the sink, it must be fully cleaned and sanitized afterward. To clean, rub down surfaces — including the sink, cutting boards and countertops — with soap and hot water, and then sanitize them with a cleaning solution to remove any residual germs.

Remember to disinfect all surfaces raw meat touches. You should also properly wash your hands before handling food.

While the bird is in the oven, keep a meat thermometer handy. A turkey needs to have an internal temperature of 165 degrees before eating.

The USDA does not recommend stuffing your turkey because it can be a breeding ground for bacteria if not prepared carefully. However, if you plan to stuff your turkey, please keep the following in mind:

  • The wet and dry ingredients for the stuffing should be prepared separately from each other and refrigerated until ready to use.
  • Stuff the turkey loosely — about 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound.
  • Immediately place the stuffed, raw turkey in an oven set no lower than 325 F.
  • A stuffed turkey will take longer to cook. Once it has finished cooking, place a food thermometer in the center of the stuffing to ensure it has reached a safe internal temperature of 165 F.
  • Let the cooked turkey stand 20 minutes before removing the stuffing.

Another rule of thumb, you should throw out Thanksgiving leftovers by Monday.