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Home Ec: Turkey Safety

This lesson will help you discuss proper food handling and cooking safety for turkey. Allow them to put their knowledge to practice by allowing them to help cook the bird this Thanksgiving season.

***Turkeys should be thawed in the refrigerator. Do you know how and why?

Thaw the turkey in its original wrap on a tray placed in the bottom section of the refrigerator.

Allow about 24 hours of defrost time for every 5 pounds of turkey. Example: a 20 pound turkey will take 4 to 5 days to thaw.

Do not thaw on the counter. Thawing at room temperature increases the risk of bacteria growth.

***Why? At room temperature, bacteria on the turkey can grow rapidly when the outside portion of the bird begins to thaw. These bacteria can multiply to dangerously high levels producing toxins that cooking may not destroy.

There are more rules you should follow if you are going to stuff the turkey before you cook it. How do you think these rules keep you safe?

Never stuff the turkey in advance in an effort to save time.

Once you have decided on a stuffing recipe, mix ingredients quickly and lightly stuff the washed cavity just before placing the bird in the oven.

Chopping vegetable ingredients and bread preparation can be done in advance, but liquids and/or moist ingredients should not be added to dry ingredients until just before stuffing the turkey.

Allow 1/2 to 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of turkey.

Stuffing needs room to expand during cooking, do not over-stuff.

The stuffing recipe may be more than your turkey can hold. Place extra stuffing in a greased pan or casserole dish and bake separately.

Stuffing contains potentially hazardous ingredients, such as broth, eggs and meat, etc. That means these ingredients could cause illness if not properly cooked and stored.

Stuffing must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165F to be safe.

Stuffing should be removed from the cavity of the bird to a separate dish before carving the turkey.

Do not leave stuffing and other leftovers out for more than 2 hours. Refrigerate leftovers immediately following the meal.

Store leftover stuffing in the refrigerator and use within 1 to 2 days.

Reheat leftover stuffing to 165 degrees F before serving.

***So you've thawed your turkey properly and you've followed all the safety instructions for stuffing your turkey, now how do you cook your turkey safely?

Decide how much turkey you will need before you shop. Buy one pound per person or 1 1/2 pounds per person if you have hearty eaters or want ample leftovers.

Buy and use a meat thermometer (see Using a Thermometer). Dark meat takes longer to cook so always insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the turkey thigh. It will register 180F when the turkey is done.

Make sure you have a roasting pan large enough for the turkey.

Allow an adequate number of days to refrigerator-defrost a frozen turkey (see Thawing Safely).

Wash hands, sinks, counters, utensils and platters thoroughly with soap and hot water before and after working with raw turkey.

Remember to remove the giblet bag from inside the turkey.

Stuff just before roasting or cook stuffing separate from the turkey.

Allow the cooked turkey to sit for at least 20 minutes before carving. During this time juices will be redistributed and the turkey will be easier to carve.

After the meal, cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as possible.

Remember the safest margin is 2 hours from the time you take the bird out of the oven.

Leftover turkey will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.

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