Holiday Turkey Safety

Emelia Clement  |  11/26/2014 2:09:19 AM

Turkey image from foodsafety.gov

The holidays are here and families are busy planning for the seasons’ celebrations, especially to have an enjoyable turkey feast. However, unless safe food practices are applied during its preparation and serving, this joyous occasion might culminate in sickness or even a trip to the emergency room due to foodborne illness .

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) suffer from foodborne illness every year; 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of these illnesses. Two of the most commonly reported causes of foodborne illness, Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria, are mainly found in poultry products like chicken and turkey. So now is the time to practice the four basic rules of keeping food safe: clean, separate, cook and chill to keep the turkey safe for consumption.

Important food safety practices to follow:

Do not thaw turkey at room temperature on the kitchen counter.

Bacteria multiply rapidly between 40-140oF and make it unsafe for consumption. The safest places to thaw are in the refrigerator, cold water and in a microwave oven.

  • The USDA recommends thawing a whole turkey in the refrigerator. Place bird in its original wrapper on a refrigerator shelf with a pan beneath to catch leaking juices. Every 4-5 pounds of turkey requires about 24 hours thawing.
  • Keep the bird in its original packaging and immerse it in cold tap water. Change the water every thirty minutes. It takes about 30 minutes to defrost a pound of turkey.
  • Get more information at turkey tips on defrosting turkey in a microwave oven.

Do not wash the raw turkey.

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling raw turkey and its packaging.
  • Use hot soapy water to wash counter tops, sinks and utensils that have come in contact with raw turkey or its juices to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria. Go an extra mile by disinfecting surfaces with a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Ensure the surface is thoroughly dry before using.

Cook the turkey to a safe internal minimum temperature of 165oF, measured by a food thermometer. This is the best way to destroy harmful bacteria on and in the turkey.

  • Insert the thermometer in the innermost part of the thigh and wing, not touching the bone to read the temperature. Find out more details here on how to use a food thermometer and doneness.
  • Cook the turkey without stuffing for optimum safety. The recommendation for stuffing is to cook it in a casserole dish. If turkey is stuffed, fill cavities loosely and ensure it reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165oF.

Learn more at Turkey Basics and Let's talk turkey to ensure a safe and delightful turkey meal.

Happy Holidays!

Rate This Article:

Have a question or comment about the information on this page?

Innovate . Educate . Improve Lives

The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture

Top