Watching The Accidental Tourist you may made you apprehensive to roast your own holiday turkey, for fear of undercooking it can making everyone sick. Turkey, like other poultry and raw meat requires certain handling to ensure that the food is safe to eat. As with other raw meats, food safety can be ensured with proper cleaning, storage, handling storage temperature and cooking temperature. Follow these food safety tips when preparing and cooking your holiday turkey to ensure a happy and safe holiday meal.
Selecting and Preparing a Turkey for a Holiday Meal
To ensure proper food safety, the first thing you need to do when buying a fresh or frozen turkey from the grocery store is to check the expiration date. Sometimes it's easy to be complacent and assume that the grocery store always keeps track of expiration dates.
Frozen turkeys may be safely defrosted three ways.
The first safe way is in the microwave, if your microwave is big enough and it has a defrost setting. Once the turkey is defrosted using a microwave, immediately put it in the oven.
The second way is to submerge the frozen bird in a sink full of cold water. Keep the turkey in its package. The USDA recommends that you check the water every half hour to ensure that the water is still cold. If it's not let the water drain and re-fill the sink with cold water.
The final safe way to defrost a frozen bird for a holiday meal is in the refrigerator. The USDA advises that to defrost a turkey in the refrigerator requires one day for every five pounds. For example, for a ten pound turkey, allow two full days of defrosting time. For 12 pounder, allow for two and half days of defrost time.
To Stuff or Not to Stuff
While it is traditional to stuff a turkey, it is not the best idea when you are concerned about food safety. You can cook stuffing in the same pan as the holiday bird, just don't stuff it inside the bird.
Cooking the Turkey
A turkey should be cooked at 325 degrees. The best way to ensure a turkey is properly cooked is to use a meat thermometer. With a meat thermometer, you can ensure that the minimum temperature inside the turkey is 165 °F, according to the USDA.
The USDA recommends the following cooking times to ensure food safety for your holiday meal:
Up to 12 pounds, allow two hours and 45 minutes to three hours.
12 to 14 pounds: three hours to three hours and 45 minutes
14 to 18 pounds: three hours and 45 minutes to four hours and 15 minutes
18 to 20 pounds: four hours and 15 minutes to four and a half hours
20 to 24 pounds: four and a half hours to five hours
Food Safety and Pre-Cooked Meals
If you will be ordering take out holiday meals, you will still need to keep certain food safety guidelines in mind. Any hot,
prepare foods should be eaten within two hours of their arrival, according to the USDA.
If you will be setting out the food for longer than two hours, un-stuff the turkey if it arrived with turkey in the cavity.
After the Holiday: Storage
How Long Can It Stay in the Freezer?
According to the USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service, a frozen turkey can be safely stored in a freezer for one year.
How Long Do Cooked Leftovers Last?
If you freeze your extra cooked turkey parts, they will last for up to four months, according to the USDA. This means that your frozen cooked turkey should be eaten before the end of April.
Tip: Use a permanent marker to label the package with your own "eat by date."
How Long Does Frozen Broth or Gravy Last?
Frozen turkey broth and frozen gravy will last between two and three months.
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