Safety Tips for Cooking Thanksgiving Turkey

When you follow the appropriate steps for thawing, handling and cooking Thanksgiving turkey, presenting the result of following perfect turkey cooking safety measures-a fantastic main dish-can actually be one of your proudest moments at your first Thanksgiving dinner.

Handling the turkey after thawing is the prime window for bacteria to get into the environment. When its time to cook the turkey, first preheat the oven and make sure your hands, sink and roasting pan are clean. Rinse the turkey off in the sink and place it directly in the roasting pan. Prepare the turkey with any number of rubs, oils or spices that you want as directed by your recipe. Once the turkey is in the oven, clean all surfaces that the turkey or turkey juice touched-sink, counter, hands and more. You can even use a mild bleach solution to disinfect.

Recently, food safety controversy has erupted over stuffing the turkey. Most experts now recommend preparing stuffing outside of the turkey and not stuffing the turkey at all. However, if you insist on doing it because that's how Grandma always did, ensure that the stuffing is very moist and packed loosely in the turkey cavity.

To positively ensure that the turkey is safe to eat for the Thanksgiving meal, invest in a meat thermometer. These only cost a few dollars and will give you peace of mind that the meat has cooked to the right temperature to kill any bacteria. A turkey should be cooked at no lower than 325 degrees Fahrenheit, and some recipes call for slightly higher, but don't ever go lower.

After the appropriate amount of time for cooking the turkey has passed according to your recipe, insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey breast. If the thermometer reads 165 degrees F or more, the turkey is ready to offer at your first Thanksgiving dinner. If the internal temperature is less than 165 degrees F, the turkey needs more time to cook. If you stuffed the turkey, insert the thermometer into the center of the cavity and ensure that temperature also reads 165 degrees F.

Don't forget to keep leftover turkey safe as well. Any leftovers should not sit out for more than two hours without being refrigerated. If the meat has been out for longer than that, it is no longer safe to eat. For guests who are planning to take some turkey along on their Thanksgiving travel, let them know that unless they live nearby, the meat won't make it safely.

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