Family's Food Safe
FEATURES – What government agency is open on Thanksgiving Day? The
United States Department of Agriculture is on the job to protect public
health through food safety. For more than 20 years, the USDA Meat and
Poultry Hotline has helped Turkey Day cooks weather a variety of
culinary storms and travails. In recent years, the Hotline has developed
the innovative “Ask Karen” feature (AskKaren.gov) on the Web that
allows consumers to type questions online and receive an immediate reply
from USDA’s virtual representative 24 hours a day.
are just part of a long-running campaign by USDA’s food safety
educators to teach Americans about the dangers of food borne illness and
the importance of adopting safe cooking and food handling behaviors. The
statistics show that approximately 5,000 Americans will die each year
due to a food borne illness — that’s almost 14 people a day,
according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
dinner is an ideal time to put food safety tips into practice because it
is the most challenging for average American consumers to cook. Food
safety considerations are often overlooked, especially since there may
be several cooks preparing food for the celebration. “Food that is
mishandled can cause very serious consequences for all, especially for
“at-risk” groups — infants, young children, older adults, pregnant
women, and people with weakened immune systems.”
dinner can be a challenging meal to prepare because it is so
time-consuming and complex,” said USDA Under Secretary for
for a Safe Thanksgiving Meal
Keep Everything Clean — Keep hands and surfaces clean.
Wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after
handling food. Run cutting boards and utensils through the dishwasher or
wash them in hot soapy water after each use. Keep countertops clean by
washing with hot soapy water after preparing food.
Don’t Cross Contaminate —When you prepare
Thanksgiving dinner, keep the raw turkey away from vegetables and side
dishes. Consider using one cutting board for fresh produce and bread and
a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Washing the cutting
board with hot, soapy water after each use; then rinse with clear water
and air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels.
Store Leftovers Safely — Discard any turkey, stuffing,
side dishes and gravy left out at room temperature longer than 2 hours.
Divide leftovers into smaller portions, and refrigerate them in covered,
shallow containers for quicker cooling. Be sure to consume refrigerated
turkey, stuffing, side dishes and gravy within 3 to 4 days or freeze the
leftovers for later use.
5. Keep Egg-rich Desserts Chilled — Pumpkin pie is as much a staple of the holiday meal as the turkey. Foods made with eggs and milk, such as pumpkin pie, must first be safely baked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 °F. Then, they must be refrigerated after baking. Eggs and milk have high protein and moisture content; when foods baked with these products are left at room temperature, conditions are ripe for bacteria to multiply.
cooking of a big bird for the holiday meal is becoming a popular cooking
method. During grilling, a turkey cooks by indirect heat in an outdoor
covered gas or charcoal grill, and a pan of water is placed beneath the
grilling surface to catch the fat and juices that drip from the turkey
as it cooks. Cooking is done by the hot, smoky, steamy air.
Turkeys that are 16 pounds or less are the recommended size for safe grilling. A larger turkey remains in the “Danger Zone” — between 40 and 140 °F — too long. Do not stuff the turkey. Because cooking is at a low temperature, it can take too long for the temperature of the stuffing to reach 165 °F. Also, smoked stuffing has an undesirable flavor.
Start to Finish
It is unsafe
to thaw a frozen turkey at room temperature. Two safe ways to thaw your
turkey are in the refrigerator or in cold water. See the chart below for
estimated thawing times. Whether you have a frozen or a fresh turkey,
cook it within 1 or 2 days of purchase or after thawing.
Refrigerator (40 °F or below)
approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds.
4 to 12 pounds
1 to 3 days
12 to 16
3 to 4 days
16 to 20
4 to 5 days
20 to 24
5 to 6 days
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. If necessary, a turkey that has been properly thawed in
the refrigerator may be refrozen.
approximately 30 minutes per pound.
4 to 12 pounds
2 to 6 hours
12 to 16
6 to 8 hours
16 to 20
8 to 10 hours
20 to 24
10 to 12 hours
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. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.
Do not refreeze.
which method you use to cook your turkey, use a food thermometer to
insure that your turkey and stuffing are cooked to a safe minimum
internal temperature of 165 °F. Check the internal temperature in the
innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the
breast. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook
turkey to higher temperatures.
are approximate and should always be used in conjunction with a properly
Whole Turkey Cooking Times
fresh or thawed turkey in a preheated 325 °F oven
8 to 12 pounds
2 3/4 to 3 hours
3 to 3 1/2 hours
12 to 14
3 to 3 3/4 hours
3 1/2 to 4 hours
14 to 18
3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
4 to 4 1/4 hours
18 to 20
4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
20 to 24
4 1/2 to 5 hours
4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours
cooking time and oven temperature setting are the same as for
conventional cooking. Preheat the oven to at least 325 °F. Place the
turkey on the roaster oven rack or other meat rack so the turkey is
raised out of the juices that collect in the bottom of the oven liner.
Leave the lid on throughout cooking, removing it as little as possible
to avoid slowing the cooking process. Always check the roaster oven’s
use and care manual for the manufacturer’s recommended temperature
setting and time.
to Cook a Turkey
Deep fat frying, smoking, using an oven cooking bag, roasting in aluminum foil, microwaving, using a pressure cooker, and cooking a frozen turkey without thawing it first are other ways to get the big bird done. For information about these methods, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline or read the publication “Turkey: Alternate Routes to the Table” at www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Turkey_Alt_Routes/index.asp
features AskKaren.gov, a Web site where you can ask and receive answers to your
food safety questions 24 hours a day from the Food Safety and Inspection
Service’s virtual representative.
Meat and Poultry Hotline is staffed Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4
p.m., Eastern Time, year-round. It will also be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Eastern Time on Thanksgiving Day. Contact the Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline
—“Let’s Talk Turkey” pamphlet is available at www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/Lets_Talk_Turkey.pdf.