This time of year is filled with party planning, family and friends, cooking, and all other activities that come with the holidays. Along with all the great festivities, there is usually an influx of concern over salmonella in turkey. Do not worry! Taking these necessary precautions while cooking up the holiday favorite can help keep you and your loved ones healthy enough for seconds and the pumpkin pie that follows.
Appropriately thawing out whole turkeys can be a tricky task. However, there are a few “rules of thumb”. Ideally, the best and safest method for thawing is called the Refrigerator Thawing Method: this requires placing the turkey in the refrigerator and allowing 1 full day per 4-5 pounds. Given that this time can take up to 4-5 days, it is recommended to appropriately plan ahead to ensure the turkey is fully thawed. With this method, a 16-pound turkey will require 4 days to fully thaw.
Second in recommendation is called the Cold Water Thawing Method: this requires submerging the turkey (in its original wrapping) in a sink or a bucket filled with cold water. However, this method does require more attention; it is recommended to change the water every 30 minutes – requiring 30 minutes per every pound. With this method, a 16-pound turkey will take up to 8 hours to fully thaw.
What not to do: thaw on kitchen counters, outside, or using thawing methods other than the ones listed above. Using improper methods of thawing can increase the growth of bacteria, including salmonella.
Cook to Safe Cooking Temperature
The best way to ensure the turkey is fully cooked is by using a kitchen thermometer. Do not rely on the “pop up timer” to give you the green light that the turkey has reached a safe cooking temperature. To check the temperature using a designated thermometer, insert into the thickest part of the turkey (usually the breast), ensure thermometer is not touching any bones/cartilage and hasn’t pierced through. Safe cooking temperature should read 165ºF or above. If turkey is stuffed, insert thermometer into the center of stuffing and safe cooking temperature should read 165ºF.
Wash & Disinfect
First and foremost, it is crucial to wash hands thoroughly when handling raw turkey. If handling, avoid touching vegetables, fruits, utensils, or other objects with unwashed hands. All utensils and cutting boards used for turkey must be properly washed and disinfected. Additionally, it is necessary to disinfect all areas that have made contact with the raw turkey, including the kitchen sink.
For those who are pros at making the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, these necessary precautions are likely engraved in the back of your mind. However, becoming slightly more vigilant or sanitary won’t hurt. Although, for those that are elderly, pregnant, or immunocompromised, these precautions are life changing.