Written by children  |  14. November 2001

Turkey is often the main course served at holiday meals. It's a favorite because it's low in fat, calories and sodium, and high in nutrition. However, turkeys can also be contaminated with salmonella bacteria. If the turkey and its trimmings are improperly prepared and stored, food poisoning may occur. It's no wonder cases of food poisoning increase during the holiday season. Salmonella will survive on kitchen counters and food-prep utensils, so make sure not to use the same utensils or cutting surfaces for raw and cooked food items. Be sure to thoroughly clean all food preparation and cooking utensils with hot water and anti-bacterial cleaners! If the color or odor of any food is questionable, DO NOT TASTE IT! It's not worth the risk. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not recommend the sale of stuffed fresh turkeys. Consumers are also advised NOT to pre﷓stuff the turkey. Advanced preparation is often the most-frequent factor associated with food poisoning incidents. Frozen, pre-stuffed turkeys should not be thawed before cooking. Pre-cooked, or commercially prepared stuffed and cooked turkeys should be purchased hot from the oven, to be served immediately. If this is not possible, the stuffing should be removed and the turkey should be cut into serving pieces, with both the stuffing and turkey being refrigerated, to be reheated at a later time. TIPS FOR PURCHASING AND PREPARING TURKEY * Processors may add convenience or value﷓added features to whole turkeys, including pop﷓up timers, net bags for easy carrying, or self-basting solutions injected into the bird for added flavor. * Purchase one pound of turkey per person to be served. This formula allows for the holiday meal plus a little leftover for the prized turkey sandwich. There is no appreciable difference between female (hen) and male (tom) turkeys in tenderness, white/dark meat ratio or other eating qualities. Hens typically weigh up to 14 to 16 pounds, and toms 15 pounds and up. * Select alternative turkey cuts if you are having a small gathering for the holiday. Choose turkey breast, tenderloins, cutlets, drumsticks or thighs. Or ask your butcher to cut a whole fresh bird in two halves, then roast one half and freeze the other half for later use. * Ensure that the packaging is intact. Avoid packaging which has rips or tears. * Save on supermarket specials by purchasing more than one turkey. A whole frozen turkey may be stored in your freezer for up to 12 months. Preparing the Turkey: 1. Wash hands frequently and thoroughly (even under nails). 2. Use a clean work surface. (Acrylic boards are safer than wooden cutting boards). 3. Wash utensils and work surface with an anti-bacterial soap after cutting raw meats. Do not allow raw and cooked meats to come into contact with each other. Thawing the Turkey: 1. Do not thaw at room temperature. 2. You may thaw in the refrigerator, leaving the turkey in its original wrappings, with a tray under it for drippings. It takes approximately 24 hours to thaw 5 pounds of frozen turkey in the refrigerator. (8-12 lbs.=1-2 days; 12-16 lbs.=2-3 days; 16-20 lbs.=3-4 days; 20-24 lbs.=4-5 days.) 3. You may also thaw a turkey in water. Leave it in its original wrapping and place it under running water, or immerse in cold water, changing the water every 30﷓60 minutes. It is important to keep the turkey cold. A whole turkey in water thaws much quicker. (8-12 lbs.=4-6 hours; 12-16 lbs.= 6-9 hours; 16-20 lbs.=9﷓11 hours; 20-24 lbs.=11-12 hrs.) 4. After thawing, refrigerate or cook immediately. Thawed turkeys may be kept in the refrigerator 2-3 days in the original wrapper. Fresh turkeys may be kept in the refrigerator 2-3 days. Cooking the Turkey: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the USDA suggests that the stuffing be cooked separately to avoid contamination. 1. Remove the original wrappers. 2. Separate the giblets and the neck piece from the cavity. If this is inadvertently forgotten, the turkey may still be eaten, but discard the giblets and neck. 3. Rinse the turkey, including the cavities. Pat dry. 4. Minimum recommended oven temperature is 325 degrees F. 5. Insert a meat thermometer into the thick section of a thigh. Cook until temperature reaches 170 degrees F in the breast and 180 degrees F in the thigh. Cooking times are for planning purposes only...always use a meat thermometer to determine whether it's "done" or not. 6. Cook the turkey in one session. Interrupted cooking increases the possibility of bacterial growth. Time to Cook: Unstuffed Stuffed Fresh or defrosted whole turkey: 4-6 lbs. 2-3 hrs. same 6-8 lbs. 2.25-3.25 hrs. 3-3.5 hrs. 8-12 lbs. 3-4 hrs. 3.5-4.5 hrs. 12-16 lbs. 3.5-4.5 hrs. 4.5-5.5 hrs. 16-20 lbs. 4-5 hrs. 5.5-6.5 hrs. 20-24 lbs 4.5-5.5 hrs. 6.5-7.0 hrs. Frozen whole turkey: 12-16 lbs 7.5-8.5 hrs. 16-20 lbs 8-9 hrs. 20-24 lbs. 9-10 hrs Storage of Raw Turkey: Refrigerator Storage Freezer Storage @ 35-40 degrees F @ 0 degrees F or below Whole Turkey 1 to 2 days 12 months Turkey Breasts 1 to 2 days 3 months Care must be taken to properly store leftover cooked turkey. The leftover turkey should be carved from bone and the stuffing removed. All leftovers should be stored in shallow containers and refrigerated, or frozen within two hours of cooking. It is recommended that the cooked, sliced turkey reach 40 degrees F within two hours or less. When re-heating, be sure the turkey reaches a temperature of at least 165 degrees F. Turkey gravy should be used within 1 to 2 days. Be sure to bring the gravy to a boil before serving. Storage of Leftover Cooked Turkey: Refrigerator Storage Freezer Storage @ 35-40 degrees F @ 0 degrees F or below 3-4 days 3-4 months Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

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