Cooking the turkey is one of the most critical jobs on Thanksgiving Day, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. Each year food-borne illnesses run rampant through the country around this time of year thanks to poultry being improperly cooked and handled. This year, the CDC has seen a strain of salmonella spreading around that is resistant to many medications. Turkey cooking safety is more important now than ever, so be sure you follow these rules when you’re cooking a turkey this year!
Your turkey should either be thawed in the microwave or in a sink of cold water, that is changed once every 30 minutes. Thawing the turkey at room temperature will allow the heat to reach the danger zone temperature range, which means the perfect climate for harmful bacteria to grow.
Prevent the Spread of Bacteria
Raw turkey is filled with bacteria that are unsafe for consumption. That bacteria can be quickly spread across surfaces to other food. Turkey cooking safety starts from the moment the turkey is thawed until it’s on the plates of your guests, and that includes preparation! When you’re preparing your turkey for the oven be sure all other food is covered and put away. Wash your hands regularly and avoid touching other surfaces, like countertops or fridge handles, without washing your hands first.
Stuffing your turkey may not come to mind when you think about potential safety hazards, but it should! Stuffing that will be cooked inside the turkey should be placed in the turkey immediately before baking to avoid bacteria growth. Check the temperature of the center of the stuffing and don’t remove it until it reaches a temperature of 165 for maximum safety. Bacteria could be living within the dressing if it’s below that temperature and it may lead to food poisoning or worse!
All of the things mentioned above are included in turkey cooking safety, but the actual cooking is the most important part! To safely cook your turkey, preheat the oven to 325. Once your turkey is completely thawed, place it in a roasting pan that’s 2-3 inches deep. Cooking times will be different for each turkey depending on size and weight. To avoid any unsafe bacteria, check the internal temperature of the turkey with a food thermometer. The thickest parts of the turkey should reach a temperature of 165 before you remove it from the oven. For added safety, allow the turkey to sit in the roasting pan for 20 minutes after transferring it from the oven before carving.