Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, food, football, and fun. When you’re feeding a house full of people, you want the meal to be delicious, nutritious, and safe. Here are five tips to keep your loved ones safe and happy this Thanksgiving:
1. No matter how you plan to prepare your turkey, safety starts with a safely thawed turkey. Thawing your turkey on the kitchen counter or in hot water can lead to foodborne illness. The easiest safe way to thaw your turkey is to use your refrigerator.
Remember that a frozen turkey will require at least 24 hours in the refrigerator for every 5 pounds of weight. After thawing in the refrigerator, a turkey should remain safe for an additional day or two before cooking. If you forgot to get the turkey out of the freezer yesterday, don’t worry! You can thaw it in the microwave. Just be sure to cook it immediately after thawing.
You can also use the cold water method when in a pinch. Keep the turkey in its original package to keep bacteria from being introduced and to keep the turkey from absorbing water. It should be submerged in cold tap water and the water should be changed every 30 minutes. It should take about 30 minutes per pound to thaw, and, like the microwave method, the turkey should be cooked immediately following thawing.
2. Wash your hands before and after handling your turkey, but don’t wash or rinse the turkey itself. Many consumers think that washing their turkey will remove bacteria. However, if you rinse your turkey, the juices can splash during washing and can transfer bacteria onto the surfaces of your kitchen, other foods, and utensils, which can make you and your guests very sick.
3. The only way to destroy bacteria on your turkey is to cook it to at least 165°F as measured by a food thermometer. Check the temperature on the innermost part of the thigh and wing, and the thickest part of the breast. The pop up thermometer that comes on many turkeys is a great indicator that your turkey is doing well, but they can sometimes “pop” before the turkey reaches the proper temperature. A thermometer is the safest way to tell if your turkey is done.
4. After dessert and before turning on the football game, be sure to get leftovers in the refrigerator. You don’t want your food to sit on the counter for longer than 2 hours from the time you set them out.
5. A good resource for food safety information is AskKaren.gov. If a turkey emergency happens on Thanksgiving and you need to call for help, the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline will be open from 8:00am to 2:00pm Eastern Time. They can be reached at (888) 674-6854.
Enjoy your turkey and have a very safe and happy Thanksgiving!
Here’s to a healthier you!
For more information please call Stephanie at the Purdue Extension Kosciusko County office at (574) 372-2340, or email at [email protected]