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EAT WELL, BUT SAFELY ON THANKSGIVING

Mon November 14, 2011

DUPAGE COUNTY-Thanksgiving is upon us and with it comes the traditional turkey dinner. However, the improper storing, cooking and serving of roast turkey can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria like salmonella, which can cause foodborne illness.

The DuPage County Health Department advises consumers that the safe food handling of turkey and other holiday foods is essential to prevent foodborne illness. Here are some tips for preparing a Thanksgiving bird safely:

  • Cooks preparing a frozen turkey should make their purchase a few days to a week in advance to allow thawing. If you plan to buy a fresh turkey, do not buy it too soon. Fresh, unfrozen poultry should be kept in the refrigerator no more than two days before cooking. Frozen turkeys that have been thawed should be cooked within four days.
  • Thaw a frozen turkey in the refrigerator. Allow one day for each five pounds of turkey. A twenty-pound turkey will take about four days to thaw. Hint: Remove neck and giblets from inside the bird as soon as possible to hasten thawing. Leave the frozen bird in its original wrapper and place it on a tray to catch any juices that may leak from the package. Bacteria in meat juices can cross-contaminate other foods that will be eaten without further cooking or that are already cooked, possibly causing foodborne illness.
  • If you do not have time to thaw in the refrigerator, you may thaw it in cold water, provided that the turkey is in a leak-proof packaging, it is submerged, and the water is changed every half-hour. Allow 30 minutes per pound of turkey to thaw in cold water.
  • Wash your hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling raw poultry. Wash all knives, cutting boards and utensils also after using for raw poultry.
  • Read and follow the cooking directions on the label. Cook turkey until it is done (165°F). Do not slow cook overnight at low temperatures or partially cook. Some turkeys come with a pop-up thermometer. It should be used only as a guide to doneness. Use a meat thermometer to be sure the temperature is over 165°F.
  • Stuffing should not be prepared a day ahead and the turkey should not be stuffed until ready to cook. A quicker, safer method is to cook the stuffing separately in a casserole, using some of the pan juices to flavor and moisten the stuffing.
  • Eat the meal as soon as it is prepared. Do not leave leftovers out on the counter or table after dinner. Cut the meat off the bones and put it in shallow containers in the refrigerator.
  • Reheat all leftovers to 165°F. (Use your meat thermometer.) Gravy should be brought to a rolling boil.

Follow these simple tips to help assure your family and guests a safe Thanksgiving Day.

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EAT WELL, BUT SAFELY ON THANKSGIVING