It’s time to talk turkey with Thanksgiving next week, and also about food-borne illnesses that often rise during the holidays because of the increased number of turkeys prepared.
If not handled, thawed and cooked properly, turkey and all poultry can carry Salmonella, a common type of bacteria that can cause food-borne illness. Consider these tips for preparing a safe and tasty turkey this year.
Properly thaw the turkey. This is the first and most important food safety step. The best way to thaw it is in the refrigerator. Make sure it is still in its original wrapper, and put a tray underneath it to catch juices and prevent cross contamination. You will need 24 hours of thawing time for every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey, so make sure you give yourself enough time to properly thaw it. Once thawed, keep it refrigerated and cook it within 1 to 2 days.
If you need to thaw the turkey more quickly, you can use the cold-water method. Place the turkey in an airtight package or leak-proof bag. Submerge the turkey in cold water for 30 minutes per pound, and make sure to change the water every half hour so it stays cold. Cook immediately.
If you purchased a smaller turkey, it may be possible to thaw it in the microwave if it will fit. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for the size of turkey, the minutes per pound and the power level for thawing. Roast it immediately after thawing.
It is never safe to thaw turkey or other meat on the counter. This is putting the meat in what food safety experts call the danger zone, 40 to 140 F, which is where bacteria multiply rapidly. Under ideal conditions, bacteria can double every 10 to 20 minutes. That means one cell can increase to more than 16 million cells in 8 hours. For this reason, all perishable foods such as poultry should never be held at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
To roast a turkey, set the oven temperature no lower than 325 F. In spite of what you may hear, it is not safe to cook a turkey for a lengthy time, such as overnight, at a very low temperature. This encourages bacterial growth. To check for doneness, use a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh. Do not rely on the pop-up thermometer alone. Meat thermometers are available at reasonable prices in most supermarkets and variety stores. To be safe, the thigh meat should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If the bird is stuffed, the stuffing should reach 165 F as well. Check the charts below to see the approximate time to cook turkey based on pounds. A stuffed turkey needs to be cooked a bit longer.
After the meal, promptly refrigerate leftovers in shallow containers. Some people leave turkey and other perishable items out all day for guests to nibble on. This is not safe. Place perishable items in the refrigerator. If people want to snack, they can get the food back out of the refrigerator.
No doubt about it — there’s always leftovers after Thanksgiving. Consider cutting or shredding turkey into cubes or pieces, putting them in freeze zip bags or containers and freezing them. You can easily pull them out to add to soup or casserole for months to come.
Try this leftover turkey recipe that is yummy and quick to make:
Mexican Turkey Breakfast Pizza
Source: Taste and tell blog
• 1 lb. pizza dough
• 1/2 cup salsa
• 5 eggs, scrambled
• 1 cup shredded or cubed cooked turkey
• 1 (4 oz.) can green chiles
• 1 cup frozen shredded hash browns
• 1 teaspoon taco seasoning
• 1 cup pepperjack cheese
• Chopped cilantro, for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
2. Roll out the pizza dough on a surface that is lightly floured or lightly covered in cornmeal. Spread the salsa over the pizza dough. Top with the scrambled eggs, followed by the turkey and green chiles.
3. Place the hash browns in a bowl and toss with the taco seasoning. Top the pizza with the hash browns. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top of the pizza, then transfer to the oven and cook until the dough is golden brown and the cheese has melted, 10 to 12 minutes or according to the pizza dough directions. Top the pizza with chopped cilantro before serving.
Darlene Christensen is an associate professor at the USU Extension – Tooele County office, which is located inside the Tooele County Health Department Building, 151 N. Main, Tooele. She can be reached at 435-840-4404, 435-277-2406 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dave Schramm is a Utah State University Extension family life specialist. He can be reached at David.email@example.com. Jennifer Viveros, M.A. also contributed to this report.