Holidays are times to share the kitchen with family and friends. Make it a goal this year to also share proper food safety practices. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention provides you some simple tips that all cooks can follow this holiday season for cooking a delicious and safe meal.
Turkey Basics: Safely Thaw, Handle, Stuff, Cook
Thaw turkeys in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water that is changed every 30 minutes, or in the microwave. A frozen turkey is safe from bacteria growth, but thawing it allows that bacteria an environment to grow and multiply in. when a turkey is left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, its temperature can creep into the "danger zone" between 40°F and 140°F. To thaw a frozen turkey in the fridge, it will need about 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds. To thaw a frozen turkey in a sink of cold water changed every 30 minutes, it will need 30 minutes per pound. Plan ahead to make sure you have enough time to safely thaw the meat.
Safe Thawing Procedures
Turkey Size in pounds
Thaw in the Fridge
Thaw in Cold Water
4 to 12 pounds
1 to 3 days
2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds
3 to 4 days
6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds
4 to 5 days
8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds
5 to 6 days
10 to 12 hours
Bacteria from raw meat can contaminate anything it touches. That means the germs can spread from the turkey, to your hands, counters, utensils, and anything else it touches. Wash your hands after every time you touch the turkey and wash utensils and work surfaces regularly. This will prevent the spread of bacteria to your food and loved ones.
Cook Stuffing in a casserole dish to make sure it is thoroughly cooked. If you stuff the turkey, do so just before cooking. Allowing it to sit in the raw turkey gives it time to suck up a lot of bacteria from the uncooked bird.Use a food thermometer to make sure the center of the stuffing reaches 165° F. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165°F and can possibly cause food poisoning.
Set the oven temperature to at least 325°F. Place the completely thawed turkey with the breast side up in a roasting pan that is 2 to 2 1/2 inced deep. Cooking time will vary depending on the weight of the bird. To make sure the turkey as reaches a safe internal temperature of 165°F, check by using a food thermometer inserted into the center of the stuffing and the thickest portions of the breast, thigh, and wing joint. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all the stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat.
Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of preparing them. Leaving food out all evening may seem like a good idea in case people get hungry again, but doing do allows the food temperature to drop into the "danger zone" and bacteria will grow. Tightly seal all the leftovers in food containers and make sure the fridge is not over packed do cool air can travel around the fridge.
Reheating food also needs to be done properly. Food should still be reheated to 165°F to kill all of the new bacteria that grew since it was cooked. Microwaves do not heat food evenly so it is important to use a food thermometer to check if all the food on your plate is 165°F.