recommended reading

Have a Thanksgiving question? Ask Karen

This story has been updated to correct misstated statistics about call volumes at USDA's meat and poultry hotline.

Wondering how long you can leave stuffing in your turkey before cooking it this holiday season or how much ham it will take to feed your extended family?

The government has an app for that.

The mobile version of the Agriculture Department’s Ask Karen food safety advice website will mark its second Thanksgiving helping hapless chefs this year. The agency launched a Spanish-language version of the mobile site in May.

Some of the most popular questions on the site Wednesday included “How long can you cook a turkey in an oven bag?” “Is it safe to cook a turkey overnight at a low temperature?” and “Can I stuff a chicken or turkey and leave it in the refrigerator to cook later?” said Kim Taylor, web services director for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

A newly trending question this year, Taylor said, is whether you should cook your turkey breast side up or breast side down. Answer: It’s a matter of personal preference, but USDA recommends breast up for the full cooking time.

Ask Karen even answers some questions on the Thanksgiving penultimate: Turducken.

USDA’s meat and poultry hotline has a long history of pitching in on Thanksgiving, of course -- even if some free marketers insist on using private sector alternatives.

The hotline is still going strong, Taylor said. The hotline takes about 60 calls per hour on Thanksgiving Day, she said, compared with about 20 calls per hour on a normal day.

Ask Karen has been taking some of the load off, though. More than 3,000 people chatted with a food safety expert using the site during fiscal 2012, a 31 percent increase over the previous year, she said. Site administrators also answered nearly 14,000 questions by email during fiscal 2012 and visitors to the site consulted more than 1 million previously answered questions.

Visits to the mobile site make up 13 percent of Ask Karen visits, Taylor said. But if you’re mixing smartphones and turkey handling this Thanksgiving, she said, it’s probably best to wash your hands in between.

The General Services Administration touted Ask Karen as one of its “Government Apps for Thanksgiving” in a blog post Wednesday. The blog also urged travelers to use the MyTSA app to check on their likely airport security wait times. MyTSA also includes a list of items travelers can and can’t fly with – a helpful resource if you’re sent home with leftovers

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.