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With Thanksgiving around the corner, Americans are stocking up on turkey and other fixings to make one of their biggest meals of the year.
A large poultry like turkey can come with a challenging task in making sure it is cooked properly to avoid illness.
"Food poisoning is a serious public health threat," said Janice Lopez-Munoz, public affairs specialist with Food Safety and Inspection Services at USDA.
The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services said Americans are estimated to consume more than 40 million turkeys this year. Lopez-Munoz offered four food safety steps to follow in the kitchen this holiday season.
With so many people preparing a meal that's not often cooked, they need to be especially careful not to serve up food poisoning.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated foodborne illness results in roughly 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths in the U.S. annually.
"It is important for consumers to be mindful this Thanksgiving, and any other day, of our food safety steps," Lopez-Munoz said.
Lopez-Munoz offered four steps to follow food safety precautions in the kitchen this holiday season:
Wash hands, surfaces and utensils with soap and warm water before cooking. Hand washing should take 20 seconds and be done before and after handling raw meat and poultry.
Also remember to clean surfaces raw meat or poultry has touched.
Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils to avoid cross-contamination in the kitchen, especially between raw meat or poultry and foods that are ready to eat.
Use a food thermometer to make sure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature.
Turkey should be cooked to 165 F and measured in three places - the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh and the innermost part of the wing.
If not consuming after cooking, chill foods promptly. Don't leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours. Refrigerate food to avoid rapid bacteria growth.
For more information and tips on preparing your Thanksgiving meal safely, consumers can visit www.FoodSafety.gov or call the Meat and Poultry Hotline toll-free at (888) 674-6854. The hotline is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The Meat and Poultry Hotline will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day to answer food safety questions, as well.
Should I wash my turkey?
Researchers at the USDA FSIS analyzed the spread of bacteria from chicken thighs that had been spiked with a harmless tracer bacteria to determine the safety of washing raw meat.
The most frequently contaminated surface was the kitchen sink, even for participants who did not wash or rinse the poultry. This could explain cross-contamination, especially if produce was washed or rinsed.
In the study, 60% had contaminated sinks after washing or rinsing the raw chicken, including 14% that still had contaminate sinks after they attempted to clean it.
The lesson: Don't rinse your turkey
Juices can transfer bacteria onto kitchen surfaces, other foods and utensils. If you must wash or rinse your turkey this Thanksgiving because of brining or other marinating process, be sure to thoroughly clean and then sanitize all kitchen surfaces.
Cooking the turkey
Timetables for cooking a large turkey can be found on the FSIS website. Here are some other tips:
* Add 10 minutes per pound for turkeys over 24 pounds. FSIS does not recommend stuffing a turkey that is larger than 24 pounds.
* Do not stuff a turkey the night before cooking it. Harmful bacteria can multiply in the stuffing and cause food poisoning when a stuffed bird is refrigerated.
* Cooking two turkeys of the same weight takes no longer than if there were only one bird in the oven. Make sure there is enough oven space for proper heat circulation.
* It is safe to cook a frozen turkey. It will take at least 50% longer than recommended for a fully thawed bird.
* If you cannot separate the giblet package from the frozen turkey before cooking, remove it carefully with tongs or a fork a few hours into the cooking process.
After cooking meat and poultry, keep it hot at 140 degrees or warmer until served.
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