Insights & Actions for Healthy Living
Avoid Becoming a Detective Foodsafe™ Case with These Tips for a Safe Holiday Turkey

Avoid Becoming a Detective Foodsafe™ Case with These Tips for a Safe Holiday Turkey

Serving food that is not just delicious but is safe for everyone and will not leave the guests ill is something we all want to accomplish.

This time of the year when we build a family meal around a turkey, there are many opportunities for that turkey to go afoul (yes, pun intended).

We asked Detective Foodsafe™ to share her expertise to help us keep our turkey safe this holiday.

Detective Foodsafe ‘Dishes’ on Turkey

“Thank you for joining us Detective Foodsafe. We know you have all the information we need to make a turkey dinner for all our family and friends that won’t make them all sick!” says the interviewer.

“Can you start by helping us understand the potential dangers of poultry?”

“Certainly, sharing on food safety is my joy,” replies Detective Foodsafe.

“It is important to remember that handling poultry is a tricky business. Poultry carries a great risk of carrying bacteria, including Salmonella, that can contaminate surfaces and people who consume it if they aren’t careful when handling it.

Salmonella is present in poultry and can find its way onto poultry during processing. Bacteria present on poultry can be killed during the cooking process when safe temperatures are reached.”

Detective Foodsafe says “it is very important to clean all surfaces thoroughly after handling poultry. Wash hands, cutting boards, knives, utensils and counters in hot, soapy water or a disinfectant to prevent cross contamination with other foods or people.”

Detective Foodsafe shares even more tips with the interviewer that she will share on the news website so everyone can use it as a reference.

Safe Poultry Handling Tips

Detective Foodsafe informs us there are guidelines for handling raw poultry, not just during the holiday season, but all year long.

  • Experts including the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) do not recommend that poultry be washed as many of us believe. The danger of spreading harmful bacteria to other points in the kitchen unknown to the cook outweigh the need to wash the poultry as it will be fully cooked killing the bacteria.
  • Keep a separate cutting board when handling poultry. Never use the same board for raw foods or ready to eat foods that will not be cooked such as lettuce, fruits and cold cuts. Use different plates and utensils for raw and cooked poultry.
  • Thaw poultry in the refrigerator out of the way of other ready to eat foods in case it drips. Use a large bag or plate that will catch any drips. You can also thaw it under cold water (not hot) or in the microwave. It is better to plan ahead and thaw under refrigeration and never thaw on counter.turkey expiration
  • Don’t buy poultry after the sell by date or use by date and if it is past its expiration.
  • Frozen poultry should show no signs of thawing before you buy it, be sure it is thoroughly frozen. Also, check the package for tears or leaking and avoid those birds. Keep the poultry separate from the other food you are buying in the grocery cart and in bags on the way home.
  • When cooking, the bird should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. The popup timer is usually accurate but you should also test it with a thermometer for safety especially at the thigh and wing which take longer to fully cook or the thickest part of the breast. If cooking a stuffed bird, take the temperature of the stuffing too which can be contaminated if not cooked to 165 degrees as well. Also cook immediately after stuffing; don’t stuff the bird the night before.
  • If you are planning to transport your poultry or other side dishes and desserts to a party or family home, be sure that you pack it in a cooler with ice to keep it cold and then reheat it thoroughly once your arrive. Test the temperature with a thermometer to be sure you have kept the foods out of the temperature danger zone (check out more here). This includes desserts made with perishable ingredients.
  • When finished eating, store leftovers in the refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower within two hours to prevent bacterial growth. Always reheat leftovers thoroughly to 165 degrees Fahrenheit before serving and discard or freeze within three to four days.

Turkey Thawing Guide

Here is a guide to thawing frozen turkey from Foodsafety.gov:

Turkey Size In the Refrigerator
(Approximately 24 hours
for every 4-5 lbs.)
In Cold Water
(Approximately 30
minutes per lb.)
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

Planning and Preparing Your Holiday Party

  •  When cooking a turkey for the holiday crowd, it is a good rule a thumb to have 1 pound of turkey per person (additional if leftovers are desired).turkey label
  • Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey cavity before stuffing or cooking.
  • Cook bird in a 325 degree Fahrenheit oven on a rack in a baking pan. Add ½ cup of water to the bottom of the pan during cooking. Use a lid or cover with heavy duty tin foil to prevent over-browning.
  • Let the turkey rest about 20 minutes after it is done so that it will carve easily.

“We thank Detective Foodsafe for all the tips and safe food handling guidelines today” says the interviewer.

“It is my pleasure and always be safe when cooking at home and eating out” Detective Foodsafe replies. “ I will be watching,” Detective Foodsafe reminds us.

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