URI talks turkey basics for Thanksgiving
KINGSTON, R.I. -- November 18, 1998 --The holiday that turkeys wish would
disappear is quickly approaching. URI food science specialist Laurie Pivarnik
offers the following food safety tips for a happy, and healthy Thanksgiving:
"The Big Thaw"
Safe Defrosting: Turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature during
"the big thaw." While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely.
However, as soon as it begins to defrost, any bacteria which may have been
present before freezing can begin to grow again. A package of frozen meat
or poultry left thawing on the counter more than 2 hours is not at a safe
temperature. Even though the center of the package may still be frozen,
the outer layer of the food is in the "danger zone" between 40
and 140 F-a temperature when foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly.
There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator,
in cold water, and in the microwave.
When thawing a turkey in the refrigerator, there are several variables
to take into account:
Plan ahead: allow approximately 24 hours for every 5 pounds in a refrigerator
set at 40F.
Some areas of an appliance may keep the food colder than others. A turkey
placed in the coldest part will require a longer defrosting time.
Follow the microwave oven manufacturer's instructions when defrosting
a turkey. Plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of
the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving. Holding
partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present would
not have been destroyed.
Cold Water Thawing
Allow about 30 minutes per pound. First be sure the food is in a leak
proof package or plastic bag. If the bag leaks, bacteria from the surrounding
environment could be introduced into the food. Immerse the turkey in cold
tap water. Check the water frequently to be sure it stays cold. Change
the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed.
Roasting instructions for safety and doneness
1. Set the oven temperature no lower than 325 F. Preheating is not necessary.
2. Be sure the turkey is completely thawed.
3. Place turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting
pan 2 to 2 1/2 inches deep.
4. If a meat thermometer is not available, cook stuffing in a casserole.
5. For safety and doneness, the internal temperature should be checked
with a meat thermometer. The temperature must reach 180 F in the thigh
of a whole turkey (center of the stuffing should reach 165 F) before removing
it from the oven. Cook a turkey breast to 170 F.
6. Juices should be clear. In the absence of a meat thermometer, pierce
an unstuffed turkey with a fork several places; juices should be clear with
no trace of pink.
7. Let the bird stand 20 minutes before removing stuffing and carving.
Handling Cooked Dinners
Take-out Dinners Hot from the Oven
Pick up the food HOT---and keep it HOT. Keeping foods warm is not enough.
Harmful bacteria multiply fastest between 40 and 140 F.
Set oven temperature high enough to keep the turkey at 140 F or above.
(Use a meat thermometer.) Stuffing and side dishes must also stay HOT.
Covering with foil will help keep the food moist.
Reheating a Whole Turkey is NOT Recommended.
If you plan to reheat a turkey, cut the meat off the bone. Slice breast
meat. Legs and wings may be left whole. Refrigerate in shallow containers.
Exception: Cooked turkeys with the USDA inspection seal on the packaging
have been processed under controlled conditions. Follow package directions
for reheating and storing.
Storage of Leftovers
Refrigerator (40 F or slightly below)
Cooked Turkey ---------------3 to 4 days
Stuffing and Gravy ---------- 1 to 2 days
Other Cooked Dishes --------- 3 to 4 days
For More Information: Jan Sawyer, 874-2116