Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

USDA Safety Tips for Preparing Turkey

Thanksgiving — a time for family and friends to gather around the dinner table. It’s also a stressful time to get everything done. Don’t cut corners in time or quality. Turkey like any other poultry or meat dish can cause all kinds of health problems if not prepared well.

WASHINGTON, November 14, 2007 – The decision of choosing a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner is serious business, both for shoppers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Whether a turkey is sold at a grocery store or ordered by Internet or catalogue, check for the USDA or State mark of inspection which ensures that the turkey has been inspected for safety and wholesomeness.

When deciding on what size turkey to purchase, you should allow approximately one pound per person. If you purchased a frozen turkey it is important to safely thaw it in the refrigerator, in cold water or in a microwave oven.

In the refrigerator allow approximately 24 hours for every four to five pounds. To thaw in cold water, allow approximately 30 minutes per pound. If you choose to thaw your turkey in a microwave oven, check your owner’s manual to calculate minutes per pound and appropriate power settings, and cook immediately after thawing.

No matter what size turkey you purchase or what dish you prepare, it is important for consumers to heed the recommendations of the USDA’s nationwide campaign.

When handling and cooking a turkey, put “Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill” into practice in order to help prevent foodborne illness.
Clean: Always wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Wash cutting boards, utensils, preparation surfaces and anything else that comes in contact with raw turkey and its juices with soap and hot water.

Separate: Use different cutting boards for raw meat or poultry and other foods that will not be cooked such as vegetables. Be sure to keep the raw turkey separate from the other side dishes.

Cook: Use a food thermometer. Every part of the turkey and the center of the stuffing should reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.

Chill: Keep the fridge at 40 °F or below to keep bacteria from growing. Perishable foods should not be left sitting out at room temperature longer than two hours. Discard food which has been left at room temperature longer than two hours.

For additional information on safely preparing your turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, review this fact sheet.

  1. This year my wife decided to have a dry run thanksgiving day to test out her recipes. We soaked the bird in a brine solution she got at William Sonoma, it really kept it moist. OMG, the turkey was so good and I get to do it again in a few days!

  2. I have a reputation in my family for using them as guinea pigs for new recipes at holiday meals.

    Retro, you are a better person than me for trying new recipes ahead of time before the big day.

    This year, I made a cauliflower swiss cheese casserole for my guests at Thanksgiving that was pretty bland and would not have served it if I had tested it out first.

    A few weeks earlier, at a local gourmet grocery store’s prepared food deli selection, my husband had this and it was to-die-for. I found a recipe on the Internet and it just was not the same as what I had tasted . Anyone have a good recipe for this? It needs to be rich and creamy and good.

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