Do Thanksgiving Safely

Stuffed_turkey

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“Stuffed turkey” by Brian Teutsch – originally posted to Flickr as Stuffed turkey. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stuffed_turkey.jpg#/media/File:Stuffed_turkey.jpg

Nov 23, 2015 (San Diego) It is that time of the year, when family and friends come together for a great thanksgiving dinner. If you plan to cook plan ahead.

First make sure you have the refrigerator space to defrost the turkey. It takes 24 hours for every 5 pounds roughly, to do it safely in the fridge. Yes. you could defrost it over the counter on a warm water bath, but according to health authorities these methods encourage bacteria growth. Given most large turkeys are larger than 5 pounds, plan for at least two days in your fridge.

Here are some tips for a safer holiday.

Do not use the same board you used for your turkey, or any other meat, to process your vegetables and fruits without giving then a good wash in between. Do not use any dish that held your fowl when raw, to hold anything else without a good wash.

Make sure to wash your hands after handling any turkey, or any other meat for that matter. Then there is the matter of stuffing…to stuff the bird or not to stuff the bird. Here are the guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture:

Here are some other important food safety guidelines to follow:

Handle raw turkeys safely. Take the turkey home directly from the grocery store. Errands should be run first, before going to the store. At home, place the turkey immediately in the refrigerator or freezer. A fresh turkey should be cooked within two days.

Defrosting Turkey. Defrost frozen turkeys in the refrigerator, allowing 24 hours for each five pounds. For faster thawing, place the frozen turkey in cold water, allowing about 30 minutes per pound. The water should be changed every half-hour. A turkey may be defrosted in the microwave if it is large enough, but follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Cook immediately after defrosting.

Prepare stuffing safely. Mix the stuffing just before it goes into the turkey. If more convenient, the wet and dry ingredients can be prepared ahead of time and chilled. Mix the ingredients just before placing the stuffing inside the turkey or in a casserole.

Stuff the bird properly. The turkey should be stuffed loosely about 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey. This will help allow the stuffing to reach the proper 165 degrees F. internal temperature whether the stuffing is in the bird or in a casserole. Use a meat thermometer to be sure. The stuffing should be moist, not dry, since heat destroys bacteria more rapidly in a moist environment.

Cook at the proper temperature. The stuffed turkey should be placed immediately in a preheated oven set no lower than 325 degrees F. Cooking overnight in a “slow” oven is not recommended since food borne bacteria can form under these conditions.

Storing leftovers. Leftovers should be stored within two hours of cooking. Cut the turkey off the bones. Refrigerate the stuffing and the turkey separately in shallow containers. Use leftover turkey within four days; stuffing and gravy, in one or two days.

The also recommend that if you are not going to use a meat thermoter to test the doneness of the bird, and the stuffing, to not stuff the bird. The temperature to reach, and should be tested at several places including the stuffing. According to the USDA what you are looking for is:  165 degrees F. For safety and doneness, theInternal Temperature of the turkey should be checked with a meat or cooking thermometer.

What about deep frying the turkey? This is becoming increasingly popular but it does have certain dangers. We prefer to let you see them from the UL laboratory.

  • Now if you insist, do this outside
  • Have an extinguisher ready.
  • Remember, they can be a hazard for you or your home. They can cause severe burns.
  • Make sure the turkey is fully defrosted and make sure not to overfill the unit.

Enjoy this feast day, and if you exercise caution and common sense, it will just be a day to get stuffed, play games with family and watch football.

 

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