Thanksgiving day is coming soon and it won’t be complete without the turkey. Why not? Turkey is a rich source of nutrients such as protein, selenium, niacin, zinc, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and the amino acid tryptophan. Its skinless white meat is also an excellent high-protein, low-fat food. So it should be present in your holiday table.
Equally important to the nutrients that we’ll be getting is food safety. Our foods should be handled properly from the time they are bought until they are served to avoid poisoning or upset stomach.
Is your fridge ready? Turkeys are big! Before buying your turkey, check out the fridge and make sure you have room for it.
Should you buy fresh or frozen turkeys? There is really no difference. Some may say that a fresh turkey tastes better. You also have the convenience of not having to defrost it. Buying frozen turkeys allow you to buy early and take advantage of sales.
What size turkey do I need to buy? Purchase at least one pound of uncooked turkey per person. You’ll have enough for the feast and for leftovers too.
When should you defrost your turkey? A whole turkey takes about 24 hours per four to five pounds to thaw in the refrigerator. (For example: A 15-pound frozen bird will take 3 to 4 full days to thaw in the refrigerator.) Ideally, purchase your frozen turkey as far in advance as necessary to safely thaw it in the refrigerator. If buying a fresh turkey, purchase it only 1 to 2 days before the meal and keep it refrigerated.
Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling the turkey.
Never defrost turkey on the counter!
Turkey can be thawed in the refrigerator or in cold water. The refrigerator method is the safest and will result in the best finished product. Leave the bird in the original packaging and place in a shallow pan and allow refrigerator thawing time at a rate of 4 to 5 pounds per 24 hours. To thaw in cold water, keep turkey in the original packaging, place in a clean and sanitized sink or pan and submerge in cold water. Change the cold water every 30 minutes. The turkey will take about 30 minutes per pound to thaw. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze.
Once thawed, remove neck and giblets from the body cavities and keep bird and parts (if using) refrigerated at 40 °F or below until it is ready to be cooked.
Quick tips on cooking your turkey germ-free:
Use a thermometer: Stuffing should be cooked outside of the bird to allow it to reach the proper temperature. If you do place it in the turkey make sure it reaches 165° F. The turkey needs to reach 180° F (inner thigh), 170° F (breast).
Large Party? If you are making large batches of food ahead of time, use shallowdishes to cool them down quickly and keep the fridge at the right temp – 40°F (see food safety article on the Danger Zone and storage information).
Serving buffet style: Place food in small portions on the platter (or place food platter with larger portions on an ice bed). As food runs out, bring out more yummy food on a fresh plate (remember the two hour rule too).
Brining the turkey: This is a great way to have a moist turkey; make sure you place the turkey in the solution in the fridge the day before (in other words, don’t have it sit out on the counter otherwise you will be serving up brined germs).
Ready for leftovers on Friday? Place turkey slices, mashed potatoes, and other side dishes in shallow airtight containers within an hour after cooking (no longer than 2 hours). Eat leftovers within the next three days. After that, it is time to toss it out and get ready the next holiday.