It’s Time to Talk Turkey!

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Thanksgiving will be here before we know it so I want you to begin thinking about food safety to avoid any turkey mishaps. All poultry can carry a common type of bacteria known as Salmonella. Properly handling, thawing, cooking and storing your turkey can drastically decrease the risk of causing a food-borne illness.

Follow these tips for a succulent and safe bird this holiday season.

1. The first and most important step is properly thawing the turkey. The best way to thaw your bird is in the refrigerator. You will need 24 hours of thawing time for every 4 to 5 pounds. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to complete this process before it is time to prepare the turkey. Leave the turkey in the original wrapper and place in a pan or tray to catch the juices as it thaws. This will help prevent cross-contamination. It is NEVER safe to thaw turkey or other meat on the counter at room temperature. Cook within 1-2 days after thawing.

2. Wash hands, sinks, counters, utensils and platters thoroughly with soap and hot water before and after working with raw turkey. Do not wash the turkey! Watch this video for a scientific explanation of why.

3. Remove the giblet bag. Try this Giblet Gravy recipe.

4. To roast a turkey, set the oven temperature no lower than 325 F. It is not safe to cook a turkey for a lengthy time, such as overnight, at a very low temperature. This encourages bacterial growth. You will want to use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. The pre-inserted pop-up thermometers are not recommended as the only temperature gauge. The thigh meat should reach 165 F.

5. If you plan to stuff the turkey, do so just before roasting. The internal temperature of the stuffing should also reach 165 F.

6. Let the turkey rest for 20 minutes after removing it from the oven. This will allow the juices to redistribute and keep your bird moist.

7. After the meal, cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as possible with the safest time margin being 2 hours from the time you removed the turkey from the oven.

8. Leftovers stored properly will be good for 3-4 days.

Visit the Poultry Extension website for more information on making a Thanksgiving turkey!