Turkey is the centerpiece of most Thanksgiving meals — a time when family, friends and loved ones come together for an expansive and filling meal.
Around 45 million turkeys will be killed this year as a result of high demand for the annual feasts, according to the National Turkey Federation. An estimates 6 billion pounds of turkey meat production is expected for this year - a number that has remained fairly consistent ove rthe last 5 years according to the USDA.
Wondering about those calories lurking in that Thanksgiving meal? “A typical holiday dinner alone can carry a load of 3,000 calories,” the Calorie Control Council (CCC), an association representing the reduced-calorie food and beverage industry says, noting that “many nibble through another 1,500 calories, downing appetizers and drinks before and after the big meal.”
Thawing the Bird
There are 3 basic ways to safely thaw the turkey.
Refrigerator. Place the turkey in a pan, breast side up and in the original wrapper. The temperature in the refrigerator should be 40 degrees F or below. Allow 1 day of thawing for each 4 pounds of turkey. Use within 4 days after thawing.
Cold Water. Place the turkey breast side down in the unopened wrapper in the sink or large pan and cover with enough cold water to cover the bird completely. Change the water every 30 minutes. Estimate a minimum thawing time of 30 minutes per pound.
Cooking Frozen. At USDA FSIS, we recommend giving yourself at least 50 percent longer to cook that frozen turkey. If you cannot separate that giblet package from the turkey at the start, just remember to remove it carefully with tongs or a fork a few hours into the cooking process.
Do not thaw the turkey at room temperature. When the turkey is left out at room temperature for more than two hours, its temperature becomes unsafe as it moves into the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F, where bacteria can grow rapidly.
Steps to follow when cooking a turkey:
- Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before touching any food to prevent the spread of many types of infection and illness.
- Do not wash the turkey. This only spreads pathogens onto kitchen surfaces. The only way to kill bacteria that causes foodborne illness is to fully cook the turkey.
- Keep raw turkey separated from all other foods at all times.
- Use separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils when handling raw turkey to avoid cross-contamination. Wash items that have touched raw meat with warm soap and water, or place them in a dishwasher.
- Cook the turkey until it reaches 165 °F, as measured by a food thermometer. Check the turkey’s temperature by inserting the thermometer in three places: the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh, and the innermost part of the wing.
Take Care with Leftovers
Clostridium perfringens are bacteria that grows in cooked foods left at room temperature. It is the second most common bacterial cause of food poisoning. The major symptoms are vomiting and abdominal cramps within 6 to 24 hours after eating.
- Clostridium perfringens outbreaks occur most often in November and December.
- Many of these outbreaks have been linked to foods commonly served during the holidays, such as turkey and roast beef.
Refrigerate leftovers at 40°F or colder as soon as possible and within two hours of preparation to prevent food poisoning.
Dean and Draper
From our family to yours, we wish you a Thanksgiving Holiday filled with laughter, good food, and the warmth of the season. Happy Thanksgiving!
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