El Paso, TX (KTSM) – The USDA wants to give you some food safety tips on keeping your turkey free from foodborne illness.
With Thanksgiving next week and many people preparing a meal they don’t cook often, hosts must be especially careful in avoiding the dangers of food poisoning.
“Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times to remind people about food safety,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “I personally know how much effort it takes to prepare a full Thanksgiving meal, and I always ensure I’m following safe food practices like handwashing, using a food thermometer and avoiding cross-contamination.”
Some tips to help this holiday is to always clean and sanitize, avoid cross-contamination, thaw the turkey safely and cook the turkey thoroughly. Below are additional and in depth tips.
Thaw the Turkey Safely
Never thaw a turkey on a counter or in hot water. USDA recommends thawing a turkey in a refrigerator since this allows for slow and safe thawing. The turkey will need about 24 hours for every four to five pounds of turkey. After thawing, it is safe to store in the refrigerator for one to two days. Turkey can also be thawed in a cold-water bath or microwave; however, it must be cooked immediately after it has thawed using these methods. If using the cold-water method, allow 30 minutes per pound and submerge the turkey in its original wrapping to avoid cross-contamination. It’s safe to cook a turkey from its frozen state; however, it will take at least 50 percent longer to fully thaw. Lastly, never leave a raw turkey out at room temperature for more than two hours.
Make sure your turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165 F. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature in three parts: the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the wing and the innermost part of the thigh. USDA recommends using a food thermometer even if the turkey has a pop-up temperature indicator to ensure it has reached 165 F in the three previously stated places. When cooking a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey, check the temperature with the food thermometer to ensure it reaches 165 F at the thickest part the breast. All previously cooked side dishes should be reheated to 165 F.
Stuffing your Turkey
USDA does not recommend stuffing your turkey because it can be a breeding ground for bacteria if not prepared carefully. However, if you plan to stuff your turkey, please keep the following in mind:
- The wet and dry ingredients for the stuffing should be prepared separately from each other and refrigerated until ready to use.
- Stuff the turkey loosely — about 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound.
- Immediately place the stuffed, raw turkey in an oven set no lower than 325 F.
- A stuffed turkey will take longer to cook. Once it has finished cooking, place a food thermometer in the center of the stuffing to ensure it has reached a safe internal temperature of 165 F.
- Let the cooked turkey stand 20 minutes before removing the stuffing.
For more information on turkey stuffing, visit Turkey Basics: Stuffing.