Turkey Safety: Guidelines To Dish Up A Fowl – Not Foul – Holiday Bird

Turkey safety guidelines are essential for keeping you and your guests healthy this holiday season. While most celebrants are not thinking about healthy or waist-friendly dining when they sit down to a festive feast, everyone should follow a few pointers to prevent food borne illness during the hustle and bustle of meal preparation.

Turkey safety guidelines will point you in the right direction when thawing, cooking and storing the bird. Food borne illnesses, which are caused by contaminants, bacteria and parasites, can take those infected from a day of holiday celebration to being grounded for the rest of the weekend with gastrointestinal upset and flu-like symptoms. Those who are especially susceptible to food borne illnesses include infants and young children, seniors, pregnant women and individuals with compromised immune systems. The good news is that the Food and Drug Administration has released a set of food safety guidelines to protect everyone at your table.

Turkey safety guidelines begin with the thawing process. Germs thrive over time spent in warm environments. Never thaw your turkey at room temperature. Leaving the frozen bird on the kitchen counter or in the sink for hours to thaw is not an option. Instead, place the frozen turkey in the refrigerator to thaw over four to five days. Alternative thawing methods include placing the turkey under cold running water or calling the microwave into service. The FDA recommends cooking the thawed turkey immediately if you use cold water or the microwave. If you opt for the cold-water method, it is imperative to thoroughly scrub the sink and surrounding countertops in between thawing and preparing the turkey for cooking.

While it is recommended to thoroughly wash all produce, turkey safety guidelines advise to never wash a raw turkey, even in cold water. Doing so increases the chances of splashing, sloshing and spreading microbes from the raw meat on surrounding kitchen surfaces to contaminate other foods that you assume are safe. Speaking of washing things, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap immediately after handling raw turkey before you touch any other foods, utensils, kitchen counter surfaces, or knobs on the range or cabinetry.

Do not let limited refrigerator space compromise turkey safety guidelines. You can relocate the beers outdoors for storage, but never thaw or store your turkey outside. Unless you reside in an Arctic tundra-like climate, which would be counterproductive in thawing anything, the temperature can creep up quickly and just enough in the daytime sun to enter the unsafe zone.

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Turkey safety guidelines are equally crucial once the turkey is out of sight in the oven. The meat has to become hot enough all the way through its thickness to be rendered safe, and if you stuff the bird, that stuffing, which has plenty of contact with the raw meat, must reach the same temperature. For this reason, cooking the stuffing in a separate baking dish is highly recommended. If you buy any kitchen gadgets at all in your enthusiasm for cooking up the family feast, make sure that one of these gadgets it a meat thermometer. Always take the turkey’s temperature before declaring it done. When pierced into the thickest part of the breast and into the innermost portion of the thigh, without touching bone, the thermometer must register at 165 degrees Fahrenheit before you can extricate the turkey from the oven. If the bird is stuffed, insert the thermometer deep into the stuffing to verify that the same temperature has been reached.

Who doesn’t love picking on the turkey long after the initial carving ritual? From late day second helpings to midnight turkey sandwiches to fortify Black Friday forays, the Thanksgiving turkey is one appreciated leftover that never seems to go to waste. However, once everyone has been served at the Thanksgiving table, do not leave the turkey out for potential guests who may drop in later or for nighttime nibbling. Even cooked meat can start to go rancid when left out for more than two hours at room temperature. Place the turkey into the refrigerator when no one is reaching for more meat.

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How long can you store the leftover turkey in the refrigerator? Always give the bird the sniff test. If it smells off, don’t take a chance. The general rule decrees that if you store your turkey in the refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it should be safe to snack on for up to four days. For good measure, if you actually have any turkey left on the third day, consider turning it into a piping hot pot of turkey soup.

By following the FDA’s turkey safety guidelines, you and your family will enjoy a long holiday weekend of quality time and seasonal festivities instead of lining up in the hallway for your turn in the bathroom. Remember, a properly prepped and cooked bird on turkey day keeps the doctor away.

[Featured Image by DNY59/iStock]