We all want to have a festive, delicious and food-safe holiday. Here are some helpful hints relating to turkey safety, courtesy of Partnership for Food Safety Education, www.holidayfoodsafety.org.
- Prior to purchasing a turkey, make sure you have ample space in your refrigerator or freezer.
- When purchasing a whole turkey, purchase at least one pound of uncooked turkey per person.
- Fresh or Frozen? Fresh turkeys will have a shorter shelf live but don’t require thawing. Frozen can be purchased in advance which means you can shop for sales. To thaw a frozen turkey, allow 24 hours per four to five pounds to thaw in the refrigerator. A 15-pound bird will take about four full days to thaw. Fresh turkeys should be purchased one to two days in advance and kept refrigerated.
- Never defrost a turkey on the counter. Thawing in the refrigerator is the safest method but it also can be thawed in cold water. Keep the turkey in the original packaging, place in a clean and sanitized sink and submerge in cold water. Change the cold water every 30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes per pound to thaw and cook it immediately. Do not refreeze.
- Turkey must be cooked to the proper internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer. A stuffed turkey will take additional time to cook.
- Stuffing should be prepared and stuffed into the turkey immediately before it’s placed in the oven. Stuff the turkey loosely (3/4 cup per pound of turkey). Bake additional stuffing in a greased casserole dish. Cooked inside or outside the bird, all stuffing must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Follow the estimated cooking time below and use a thermometer to make sure the turkey is done. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching the bone. Cook to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. If the turkey is done, and the stuffing has not reached 165 degrees, remove the stuffing and finish cooking it in a casserole dish.
- Let the turkey rest 20 minutes before carving. Remove the stuffing and use clean utensils.
- Remove the turkey from the bones. Within two hours, store leftover turkey in shallow containers and put in the refrigerator or freezer. Use the leftover turkey, stuffing and gravy within three to four days. Cooked turkey keeps for three to four months in the freezer. Make sure you reheat leftovers to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring gravy to a boil.
- Remember, when cooking and preparing meals, make sure anything that comes into contact with the food is clean. Hands should be washed frequently throughout the food preparation.
- Call the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline at 1-888-674-6854 for more answers. They are available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Suggested cooking times:
|Unstuffed Turkey||Stuffed Turkey|
|8-12 pounds||2 3/4 to 3 hours||8-12 pounds||3 to 3 1/2 hours|
|12-14 pounds||3 to 3 3/4 hours||12-14 pounds||3 1/2 to 4 hours|
|14-18 pounds||3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours||14-18 pounds||4 to 4 1/4 hours|
|18-20 pounds||4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours||18-20 pounds||4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours|
|20-24 pounds||4 1/2 to 5 hours||20-24 pounds||4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours|
For more information, call Debbie Stephenson at the Harnett County Cooperative Extension at 910-893-7530.