Turkey Time: Food Safety Tips

As you prepare to cook the turkey, a staple at most Thanksgiving dinners, it is important to remember food safety. Whether you consider yourself a top-notch chef or are simply a beginner cook, food safety is always important. There is nothing worse than a case of foodborne illness, and these tips will assure that you prepare your turkey as safely as possible.

There are three main safety issues when preparing a turkey: thawing, preparing, and cooking to the adequate temperature. These guidelines ensure that you will avoid many foodborne illnesses or bacteria growth.

Safe Thawing

Turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature during the thawing process. The danger zone is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, so your Thanksgiving turkey should be kept out of this range at most times. The three safe ways to thaw food are in the refrigerator, in cold water, or on a counter at room temperature. However, be sure to change the water every 30 minutes if you choose to thaw it in cold water. For your purposes, microwaves do not usually fit large Thanksgiving turkeys, so you probably won’t use this method. If you choose to let the turkey thaw at room temperature, it can only sit out for two hours before it needs to be placed in the oven or refrigerator.

Safe Preparation

Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly, tie up loose hair, and wash countertops and the surfaces of cutting boards, knives, and any other utensils you are using to prepare your turkey. After placing the turkey in the oven or fridge, it is important to wash all countertops and hands again because bacteria from the raw turkey can be transferred to other foods if the areas are not washed. Safe preparation guarantees that the rest of your foods remain safe as well.

Safe Cooking

First, it is important to make sure the turkey is completely thawed. When cooking, do not set your oven for any lower than 325 degrees Fahrenheit. The turkey needs to reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit to be considered safe to eat. Finally, if you have stuffed the turkey, let it stand for 20 minutes before you remove the stuffing to serve. Nowadays, some people are avoiding stuffing their turkey for safety reasons. Since the stuffing goes into the middle of the bird, some juices from the turkey that may contain salmonella can soak into the stuffing. The stuffing also needs to reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit, so this could lead to overcooking the turkey.

Savor this Thanksgiving by preparing your turkey the right way.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Collins, Dollarphotoclub

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