Improper food handling and inadequate cooking are among the most common errors which can lead to poultry-associated food borne disease outbreaks in the United States.
Follow these four food safety tips to help you safely prepare your Thanksgiving turkey.
- Safely Thaw Your Turkey
Thaw turkeys in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water that is changed every 30 minutes, or in the microwave. Never thaw your turkey by leaving it out on the counter. A frozen turkey is safe indefinitely, but a thawing turkey must defrost at a safe temperature.
When the turkey is left out at room temperature for more than two hours, its temperature becomes unsafe as it moves into the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F, where bacteria can grow rapidly.
- Safely Handle Your Turkey
Bacteria from raw poultry can contaminate anything that it touches. Follow the four steps to food safety – cook, clean, chill, and separate – to prevent the spread of bacteria to your food and family.
Take Care with Leftovers
Clostridium perfringens are bacteria that grows in cooked foods left at room temperature. It is the second most common bacterial cause of food poisoning. Symptoms can include vomiting and abdominal cramps within 6 to 24 hours after eating.
- Outbreaks occur most often in November and December.
- Meat and poultry accounted for 92% of outbreaks with an identified single food source.
Refrigerate your leftovers at 40°F or colder as soon as possible preferably within two hours of preparation to prevent food poisoning.
Use a food thermometer to check for a safe internal temperature.
- Safely Stuff Your Turkey
Cook stuffing in a casserole dish to make sure it is thoroughly cooked. If you stuff the turkey, do so just before cooking. Use a food thermometer to make sure the stuffing’s center reaches 165°F. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165°F and possibly cause food poisoning. If the stuffing is inside a whole turkey, take the bird out of the oven and let it stand 20 minutes before removing the stuffing. Learn more about how to safely prepare stuffing.
- Safely Cook Your Turkey
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 inches deep. Cooking times will vary depending on the weight of the turkey.
To make sure that the turkey has reached a safe internal temperature of 165°F insert a food thermometer 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 stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat.