Thanksgiving Turkey Safety Tips

Posted on November 23, 2005

There are lots of resources with advice and cooking tips for people looking for help on preparing the Thanksgiving turkey. An article reports on the turkey temperature controversy. The Agriculture Department says 180 degrees but chefs say that temperature can dry out the turkey.

During a food-safety demonstration at a food bank, the Agriculture Department's undersecretary for food safety walked along a table laden with raw and cooked turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie.

Raymond and Terrell Danley Jr., the chef at Washington�s Creme Cafe, showed how to plunge a thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey leg. The government says the temperature should read 180 degrees before the bird comes out of the oven.

That is easier said than done for people who look forward to a juicy bird. Chefs say the turkey can dry out at 180 degrees.

"I believe that�s excessive," said David Kamen, chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of America. "The idea is to ensure people's safety. Salmonella dies at 165 degrees, so that extra 15 degrees we're throwing on top of there, one has to ask why."

Thanksgiving chefs need to be careful to avoid two of biggest no-nos: thawing the turkey at room temperatures and stuffing the turkey too early. Epicurious explains in a detailed faq that has all sorts of turkey cooking tips:
Help! It's the night before Thanksgiving and I forgot to move my 14-pound frozen turkey into the refrigerator to defrost. I know it's not safe to just leave it out on the counter. Is there anything I can do?

Yes, although you'll have to stay up late. Put the turkey in a cooler or sink full of cold water. Change the water every few hours so that it remains under 40�F. The turkey will thaw in about seven hours (the general rule is 30 minutes per pound). See more tips on thawing a frozen turkey.

Can I stuff my turkey the night before I roast it to save time in the morning?

Only if you wish to poison your guests. In other words, DEFINITELY NOT. Stuffing the bird the night before would allow dangerous bacteria to grow.

The USDA website also has a helpful page with tips for cooking and handling turkey.

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