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Extension Notes: Let’s talk turkey safety

By: Whitney Morrow
Carter County Extension Agent

It’s nearly Thanksgiving, and soon, delicious, juicy turkeys will take center stage at many of our holiday meals. It’s so important to properly cook and prepare these birds, because you don’t want anyone to get sick from a food-borne illness.  

It does not matter whether you purchase a fresh or frozen turkey. But if you plan to purchase a pre-stuffed turkey, make sure it is frozen and has a seal that states it was inspected by either the U.S. Department of Agriculture or a state department of agriculture. The USDA does not recommend that you purchase a fresh, pre-stuffed turkey, because if handled incorrectly, harmful bacteria can quickly grow in the stuffing.  

You can safely thaw turkeys in either the refrigerator, cold water or the microwave if the turkey is cooked immediately. You can safely cook a frozen turkey but realize that it will need to cook at least 50% longer than a thawed one.  

Once you are ready to cook your turkey, set the oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees Fahrenheit and place it on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. You can add one-half cup of water to the bottom of the pan to keep the turkey moist. For optimal food safety, the USDA recommends that you separately cook the turkey and stuffing, so you can make sure both items reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Measure the turkey’s internal temperature with a food thermometer, even if the turkey includes a pop-up thermometer. Check the temperature in several locations including the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh and the innermost part of the wing to make sure the temperature is 165 degrees throughout.  

Remember to store leftovers within two hours after the meal. Discard any food that’s been left out longer than that. To make reheating easier, divide leftovers into small portions. Eat refrigerated leftovers within three to four days. Frozen leftovers will keep for two to six months. Remember when reheating leftovers, make sure the internal temperature of the food is at least 165 degrees.  

More food safety information and timetables for proper thawing and cooking are available on the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service website at http://bit.ly/1uKfrNl. For additional food safety information, contact the Carter County Extension office.   

Source: Annhall Norris, UK extension specialist

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.  



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