Dalton (GA) - Turkey is such the favorite staple of most Thanksgiving feasts that Thanksgiving Day is often fondly referred to as Turkey Day. But, given that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that 80 percent of food borne illnesses are linked to meat and poultry, proper handling and cooking of your holiday turkey is essential. 

Below are important turkey safety tips to practice this holiday season: 

1. IMPROPER THAWING: If a turkey is not completely thawed it will not get done in the middle allowing Salmonella to survive.
  • Whenever possible, thaw turkeys in the refrigerator. However, it takes 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey. A 20 pound frozen turkey can take 4 to 5 days to thaw in a refrigerator.
  • Frozen turkeys can be thawed by sealing in a food-grade plastic bag and submerging in cold tap water. Change the water every thirty minutes. This method takes approximately 30 minutes for each pound of turkey. Using a small stream of running water is an even better method but the water must drain at the same time.  An ice chest is a good container for these methods although a kitchen sink may suffice.
  • NEVER thaw turkeys out at room temperature! Bacteria will grow on the outside of the turkey before the middle is thawed.      
  • Microwave thawing is a possibility but most whole frozen turkeys won’t fit inside most microwave ovens. Cook the turkey immediately after removing from microwave.

2. IMPROPER COOKING: The middle of the turkey must reach 165ºF in order to kill all Salmonella and other bacteria. Don’t guess! Use a meat thermometer. Cook dressing separately - don’t stuff the turkey. Whether you bake, smoke or fry a turkey, the middle must reach 165°F.


3. IMPROPER COOLING: Never let a turkey sit out at room temperature for more than one hour after cooking. Many cases of Salmonella food poisoning have happened because the turkey was not thoroughly cooked and then allowed to sit out at room temperature all morning or all night. If the turkey is not served the day of cooking, it should be carved and placed in the refrigerator.

4. LEFTOVERS: Don’t leave leftovers sitting out a room temperature. After the meal, freeze or refrigerate leftovers in convenient smaller portions. Leftovers can be as or more dangerous than freshly cooked turkey. Your home refrigerator should be no higher than 41°F.

Just follow these tips, and have a very happy and SAFE Thanksgiving! Turkey cartoon - Nov 2012 for web

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