Let’s Talk Turkey Safety

An except of the following article printed in the November 24, 2016 edition of the Oldham Era.

how to cook turkey safely

Let’s Talk Turkey Safety

It’s nearly Thanksgiving, and soon delicious, juicy turkeys will take center stage at many of our holiday meals. It is of the utmost important that these birds are properly cooked and prepared, otherwise someone could get sick from a food-borne illness.

It does not matter whether you purchase a fresh or frozen turkey; the U.S. Department of Agriculture has cooking safety tips for both on its Food Safety and Inspection Service website. If you plan to purchase a pre-stuffed turkey, however, make sure it is frozen and has a seal that states it was inspected by either the USDA or a state department of agriculture. The USDA does not recommend that you purchase a fresh, pre-stuffed turkey because if handled incorrectly, harmful bacteria can quickly grow in the stuffing.

You can safely thaw turkeys in either the refrigerator, cold water, or the microwave if the turkey is cooked immediately. You can safely cook a frozen turkey, but note that will it need to cook at least 50 percent longer than a thawed one.

Once you are ready to cook your turkey, set the oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees Fahrenheit, and sit the bird on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. You can add one-half cup of water to the bottom of the pan to keep the turkey moist. For optimal food safety, the USDA recommends that you cook the turkey and stuffing separately, so you can make sure both reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit throughout.

cooking turkey safely

Measure the internal temperature of the turkey with a food thermometer, even if it has a pop-up thermometer in it. To make sure that the temperature is 165 degrees throughout, check the temperature in several locations including the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh, and the innermost part of the wing.

Remember to store leftovers within two hours after the meal. Discard any food that’s been left out longer than that. To make reheating easier, you can divide leftovers into small portions. Eat refrigerated leftovers within three to four days. Leftovers that are frozen will keep for two to six months. Remember when reheating leftovers to check that the internal temperature of the food is at least 165 degrees.

More food safety information and timetables for proper thawing and cooking is available on the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website at http://bit.ly/1uKfrNl. If you have additional food safety questions, contact the Family & Consumer Science agent at your county Extension office.

how to cook turkey safely

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.


Written by Annhall Norris, UK Extension Associate. Edited by Lauren Fernandez, Oldham County Extension Program Assistant.

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