Posted by: Dennis Hinkamp on Nov 17, 2008

Let's Talk Turkey Safety

ASK A SPECIALIST: DO YOU HAVE TIPS FOR SAFELY PREPARING MY THANKSGIVING TURKEY?
 
Answer by: Darlene Christensen, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences agent, Tooele County
 
Turkey, like all poultry, often carries Salmonella, a common type of bacteria that can cause food-borne illness. Under ideal conditions, bacteria can double every 10 to 20 minutes. That means one cell can increase to over 16 million cells in eight hours. For this reason, perishable foods such as poultry should never be held at room temperature for more than two hours. To safely prepare your Thanksgiving turkey, consider these tips.  
 
• Thaw it properly. You can safely thaw turkey in your refrigerator at 40 F or below. Allow 24 hours for every 5 pounds of whole turkey. Using this method, fully thawed turkeys can remain in the refrigerator for one to two additional days. After thawing, remove the neck and giblets from the body cavities. Then wash the turkey with cold water, inside and out, and drain it well.
 
• Turkey may also be defrosted in cold water in its airtight packaging or in a leak?proof bag. Submerge the turkey or cut?up parts in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes to make sure water remains cold.
 
• If you purchased a smaller turkey, it may be possible to thaw it in the microwave.  Check the manufacturer’s instructions for the size of turkey that will fit in your microwave, the minutes per pound and the power level to use for thawing. Remove the giblets, rinse the turkey and roast it immediately after thawing.
 
• It is never safe to thaw your turkey or other meat on the counter. This is putting the meat in what food safety experts call the danger zone – 40 to 140 F, which is where bacteria multiply rapidly.
 
• To roast a turkey, set the oven temperature no lower than 325 F. It is not safe to cook a turkey for a lengthy time, such as overnight, at a very low temperature. This encourages bacterial growth. To check for doneness, use a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh. Meat thermometers are available at reasonable prices in most supermarkets and variety stores. To be safe, the thigh meat should reach 165 F. If the bird is stuffed, the stuffing should reach 165 F as well. 
 
• After the meal, refrigerate leftovers promptly in shallow containers. A habit of many families is to leave turkey and other perishable items out all day for people to “graze on.” Remember this is not safe. Place perishable items in the refrigerator. If people want to snack, they can get the food out of the refrigerator.
 
For more information on turkey preparation or storage, contact your local USU Extension office. You can also contact USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline toll free at 888?MPHotline (888-674-6854).
 
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