It’s that time of year where when millions of Americans begin planning their Thanksgiving feast. Along with deciding how big of a turkey you need for your gathering and what sides to serve, it’s important to review Thanksgiving food safety. Learn how to safely prepare this poultry-centered feast. Each year around the holidays, hospitals are flooded with calls from people who get sick from under-cooked poultry or human error during preparation. These Thanksgiving food safety tips can help you and your loved ones avoid illnesses and trips to the hospital this holiday season.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can thaw poultry by placing it in a container or pan in the refrigerator. The contain you use must prevent any juices released during thawing from touching shelving and other food stored within the refrigerator. Turkeys can also safely thaw under cold water running water in the sink. Some microwaves are large and powerful enough to thaw turkeys, but each one is different, so make sure to consult the manufacturer’s instructions for each model. Never thaw poultry by letting it sit out on the counter. Bacteria can grow quickly at room temperature and cause food-borne illness.
During preparation, wash your hands after handling poultry and before touching any cooking utensils or surfaces that will be used to prepare other foods. Do not use plates, surfaces and utensils that were used during meat preparation to prepare other foods.
Take special care with stuffing that goes inside the turkey. Heat stuffing in a casserole dish and serve it separately from the turkey. If you prefer to cook stuffing inside the turkey, you must place the turkey in the oven immediately after the filling has been added. Check the stuffing with a food thermometer to make sure it has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Stuffing that does not reach this temperature during cooking may cause food poisoning. After the turkey comes out of the oven, let the stuffing cook a little more by waiting 20 minutes to remove it from the cavity.
Cook turkeys by setting the oven to 325 degrees. Completely thaw the turkey before cooking, then place it breast side up in a roasting pan. Cook time depends on the size and weight of the turkey. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the thickest portion of the breast, thigh and wing joint. If the turkey is stuffed, check the temperature at the center of the stuffing too. When all the above points have reached 165 degrees or higher, you can safely eat your turkey.
The flavor provided by turkey fryers may not be worth the increased risk of fires or severe burns. If you do choose to cook your turkey in a fryer, State Farm Insurance recommends taking the following precautions:
-Do not place fryers on decks, near garages or close to trees and other structures.
-Only place thawed turkeys in fryers. Ice and excess water can cause hot oil in the fryer to flare up.
-Do not operate fryers outdoors during rain and snow.
-Do not move a fryer that is in use, and make sure it is on level ground.
-If you are using a propane-powered fryer, leave two feet between the tank and
-Follow manufacturer instructions.
-Avoid larger turkeys when using a fryer. Pick a bird that weighs less than 12 pounds; 8-10 pounds is best.
-Do not leave fryers unattended.
-Select a fryer with temperature controls and do not heat the oil past its smoke point.
If the oil begins smoking, the fryer must be turned off.
-The burner should be off when the turkey is lowered in. The burner can be turned on once the turkey is submerged.
-Protect your eyes by wearing goggles.
-Protect your skin by wearing oven mitts.
-Keep an ABC rated fire extinguisher nearby when using a fire. If a fire breaks out, do not use water to try extinguishing a fryer-related fire.
-Do not stuff a turkey you intend to fry, and don’t use water-based marinade.
-Do not allow children or pets to be near the fryer.
-After the turkey is cooked, remove the pot from the burner and leave it covered on a level surface overnight so the oil can cool before disposal.
-Choose a fryer that uses infrared heat instead of oil to cook the turkey.
A little planning and attention makes a big difference in Thanksgiving food safety. Now that you understand how to prevent food-borne illness, you and your loved ones can safely enjoy your holiday feast.