A few simple steps can help ensure a happy and safe holiday season, with safe and delicious holiday meals.
Laura Steele, environmental health specialist, says, "Thanksgiving may only be a few short days away but by following the proper steps you can be assured that you are preparing a safe and enjoyable meal."
Thawing Your Turkey
There are three safe ways to thaw your turkey: in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave oven.
If using the refrigerator to thaw your turkey allow 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds.
Keep the turkey in its original wrapper. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. A turkey thawed in the refrigerator may even be refrozen.
If thawing the turkey in cold water, allow 30 minutes per pound.
Wrap your turkey securely, making sure the water is not able to leak through the wrapping. Submerge your wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes to maintain the cold temperature. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed and do not refreeze.
To thaw a turkey in the microwave:
Check your owner's manual for the size turkey that will fit in your microwave oven, the minutes per pound, and power level to use for thawing. Remove all outside wrapping. Place on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that may leak. Cook your turkey immediately. Do not refreeze or refrigerate your turkey after thawing in the microwave oven.
Roasting Your Turkey
According to Laura Steele at Central District Health Department, the stuffing should be cooked separately. "Remove the stuffing before cooking the turkey to ensure that the turkey is evenly cooked and that the internal temperature of the stuffing will reach 165 °F."
A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. Consumers may choose to cook turkey to higher temperatures which is fine.
If your turkey has a "pop-up" temperature indicator, it is recommended that you also check the internal temperature of the turkey in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast with a food thermometer. The minimum internal temperature should reach 165 °F for safety.
Wash all utensils, thermometers, the sink, and any other surface that came into contact with the raw turkey and its juices with soap and water.
Storing Your Leftovers
Discard any turkey, stuffing, and gravy left out at room temperature longer than 2 hours; 1 hour in temperatures above 90 °F.
Divide leftovers into smaller portions. Refrigerate or freeze in covered shallow containers for quicker cooling.
Use refrigerated turkey and stuffing within 3 to 4 days. Use gravy within 1 to 2 days.
If freezing leftovers, use within 2 to 6 months for best quality.
When reheating turkey make sure to bring it back up to an internal temperature of 165 °F. To keep the turkey moist, add a little broth or water and cover.