5 Widespread Turkey Cooking Errors That Can Make You Sick


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You don’t want Thanksgiving 2021 to be remembered as “The Year Everyone But Vegetarians Got Salmonella.”

However, it is a real risk. Improper handling is one of the most common causes of foodborne illness in poultry, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The following information can help protect the guests in your home from food poisoning this Thanksgiving. Don’t make these common mistakes.

1. Let the turkey stand to defrost

Freezing doesn’t kill bacteria that might be on a turkey. As soon as the bird warms up to 40 degrees, these bacteria can multiply.

That’s why the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends thawing a frozen turkey in the refrigerator. Allow 24 hours per 4 to 5 pounds of bird.

Further information on defrosting and roasting times can be found in the tables from FoodSafety.gov.

If you need to speed up the process just before cooking, there are two ways to stop thawing:

  • Cold water: Place the frozen turkey in a leak-proof plastic bag (or keep it sealed in the plastic bag) in a sink or container of cold water. Change the water every half hour, making sure to use cold water every time. Thawing should take 30 minutes per pound.
  • microwave: Use your microwave’s instruction manual to determine the correct power level, the number of minutes per pound to defrost the bird, and the size of turkey that can be placed in the appliance. If the turkey appears to be boiling instead of just thawing it, let it sit for five minutes and then continue thawing.

Either way, without a refrigerator, start cooking the bird immediately after defrosting.

By the way, it is possible to cook a frozen turkey. But it takes at least 50% longer.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has additional tips on how to safely thaw a frozen bird.

2. Wash the turkeys

More than two-thirds of home cooks wash a turkey before cooking. Bad idea, according to the USDA. That’s because it carries harmful bacteria into your workplace and other foods. The spray zone can extend up to 3 feet.

Instead, put the unwrapped bird straight into the pan. Cooking a turkey to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees kills all bacteria.

However, a cured turkey must be rinsed before going into the oven. How to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination:

  • Remove everything (drainer, sponges, etc.) from the sink and cover the area with paper towels.
  • Place the roaster directly next to the sink.
  • Wash the sink with hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Then fill it with several inches of cold water.
  • Carefully – avoid splashing – the cold faucet through the turkey’s den. Hold to drain, then place in the roasting pan.
  • Throw away the paper towels and use hot, soapy water to clean the sink and work area. Only then put the pan in the oven.

3. Do not wash hands immediately after handling raw turkey

Bacteria do you remember Don’t pause for a moment, even to reply to a text message or to comfort a child.

If you need to stop preparation, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Lather for at least 20 seconds before rinsing.

The CDC explains how to wash your hands before, during and after preparing food.

4. Do not use a meat thermometer

There is no substitute for a meat thermometer.

Maybe your mother didn’t have one (mine didn’t) and no one got sick. We were all just lucky. Bacteria can survive an internal temperature of up to 140 degrees.

Check the degree of doneness by inserting the food thermometer into the thickest parts of the chest, thigh and wing joint. In addition, place the thermometer in the center of the filling. The temperature in each of these places must reach 165 degrees or more.

5. Let the cooked turkey rest for hours

After a great Thanksgiving dinner, it’s nice to linger at the table, indulge in past holidays and just eat a little pumpkin pie.

Linger as long as you like, but don’t let the food sit around at room temperature. According to the CDC, all perishable foods should be refrigerated within two hours. And if it’s 90 degrees or warmer outside, you can have all your groceries wrapped and safely stowed away within an hour.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, sometimes we get compensation when you click on links in our stories.

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