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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – As people around the United States gather on Thursday to give thanks, getting sick is the last thing most people want this year.
Food poisoning is an ailment caused by improper preparation, cooking or eating of raw foods. Experts have guidance on how to not get food poisoning on Thanksgiving or any day of the year.
Safety tips for the turkey
1. Store Turkey Properly
- Frozen raw turkey should be stored in the freezer until you are ready to thaw it. Make sure your freezer is at 0˚F or below. Don’t store a turkey in a place where you can’t closely monitor the temperature, such as in a car trunk, a basement, the back porch, or in snow.
2. Thaw Turkey Safely
Use one of these methods to thaw your turkey.
When thawing a turkey in the refrigerator:
- Plan ahead: allow approximately 24 hours for each four to five pounds in a refrigerator set at 40 °F or below.
- Place the turkey in a container to prevent the juices from dripping on other foods.
Whole turkey thawing time:
- 4 to 12 pounds — 1 to 3 days
- 12 to 16 pounds — 3 to 4 days
- 16 to 20 pounds — 4 to 5 days
- 20 to 24 pounds —5 to 6 days
A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days before cooking. Foods thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking but there may be some loss of quality.
Cold Water Thawing
First be sure the turkey is in a leak-proof plastic bag to prevent cross-contamination and to prevent the turkey from absorbing water, resulting in a watery product.
Submerge the wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Allow about 30 minutes per pound.
Whole turkey thawing time:
- 4 to 12 pounds — 2 to 6 hours
- 12 to 16 pounds — 6 to 8 hours
- 16 to 20 pounds — 8 to 10 hours
- 20 to 24 pounds — 10 to 12 hours
A turkey thawed by the cold water method should be cooked immediately. After cooking, meat from the turkey can be refrozen.
Follow the microwave oven manufacturer’s instructions when defrosting a turkey. Plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving. Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present wouldn’t have been destroyed. A turkey thawed in the microwave must be cooked immediately.
Never thaw your turkey by leaving it out on the counter. A turkey must thaw at a safe temperature. When a turkey stays out at room temperature for more than two hours, its temperature becomes unsafe even if the center is still frozen. Germs can grow rapidly in the “danger zone” between 40°F and 140°F.
3. Handle Turkey Correctly to Prevent the Spread of Germs
Raw turkey and its juice can contaminate anything they touch. Be sure to handle your turkey correctly to prevent harmful germs from spreading to other food or your family and friends.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling the turkey.
- Use one cutting board for raw turkey and a separate cutting board for produce, bread, and other foods that won’t be cooked.
- Never place cooked food or fresh produce on a plate, cutting board, or other surface that held raw turkey.
- Wash cutting boards, utensils, dishes, and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing raw turkey and before you prepare the next item.
Washing raw turkey can spread germs to other food. Federal agencies have recommended not washing turkey or chicken since 2005. However, a 2020 survey found that 78% of participants reported washing or rinsing turkey before cooking. Old recipes and family cooking traditions may tempt you to keep this practice going, but it can make you and your family sick. Poultry juice can spread in the kitchen and contaminate other foods, utensils and countertops.
If you wash raw turkey, immediately clean and thoroughly sanitize the sink and surrounding area. A USDA study found that one in seven people who cleaned their sink after washing chicken still had germs in the sink.
4. Cook Stuffing Thoroughly
It’s safest to cook stuffing in a casserole dish instead of inside your turkey. Cooking stuffing in a casserole dish makes it easy to be sure the stuffing is thoroughly cooked. If you do cook stuffing in the turkey, put the stuffing in the turkey just before cooking.
With either cooking method, use a food thermometer to make sure the stuffing’s center reaches 165°F. Germs can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165°F. If you cooked the stuffing in your turkey, wait 20 minutes after taking the bird out of the oven before removing the stuffing. This allows the stuffing to cook a little longer.
5. Cook Turkey to a Safe Temperature
To roast a turkey in your oven, set the oven temperature to at least 325°F. Place the completely thawed turkey in a roasting pan that is 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep. Cooking times depend on the weight of the turkey and whether it is stuffed.
Use a food thermometer to make sure your turkey has reached a safe internal temperature of 165°F.
- Check by inserting a food thermometer into three places, avoiding bone:
- thickest part of the breast
- where the body and thigh join, aiming toward the thigh.
- where body and wing join, aiming toward the wing.
- Even if your turkey has a pop-up timer, you should still use a food thermometer to check that it is safely cooked.
If you are cooking your turkey using another method, such as smoking or frying it, or if you are roasting a turkey that is not fully thawed, follow these guidelines for cooking your bird safely.
6. Take Care of Leftovers
Follow these tips to safely store and reheat your leftovers.
- Refrigerate leftovers at 40°F or colder within 2 hours of cooking to prevent food poisoning. Refrigerate leftovers that have been exposed to temperatures higher than 90°F, like in a hot car, within one hour.
- If you are refrigerating a big cut of meat, such as a turkey or roast, cut it into smaller pieces so they cool quickly. You do not need to wait until food is cool to store it in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Eat cooked turkey and dishes made with it, such as soup or a casserole, within three to four days. Freeze leftovers to store them for longer.
- Reheat all leftovers to at least 165°F before serving or eating.
The bacteria Clostridium perfringens grows in cooked foods left at room temperature. It is the second most common bacterial cause of food poisoning. The major symptoms are vomiting and abdominal cramps within six to 24 hours after eating.
- Clostridium perfringens outbreaks occur most often in November and December.
- Many of these outbreaks have been linked to foods commonly served during the holidays, such as turkey and roast beef.
Safety tips for other foods
1. Keep foods separated. Keep meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods at the grocery store and in the refrigerator. Prevent juices from meat, chicken, turkey, and seafood from dripping or leaking onto other foods by keeping them in containers or sealed plastic bags. Store eggs in their original carton in the main compartment of the refrigerator.
2. Cook food thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs have been cooked to a safe internal temperature to kill germs. Roasts, chops, steaks, and fresh ham should rest for 3 minutes after you remove them from the oven or grill.
3. Keep food out of the “danger zone.” Bacteria can grow rapidly in the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F. After food is prepared, keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Refrigerate or freeze perishable food like meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, eggs, cut fruit, cooked rice, and leftovers within two hours (one hour if food is exposed to temperatures above 90°F, such as in a hot car). The temperature in your refrigerator should be set at 40°F or below and the freezer at 0°F or below.
4. Use pasteurized eggs for dishes containing raw eggs. Salmonella and other harmful germs can live on both the outside and inside of normal-looking eggs. Many holiday favorites contain raw eggs, including eggnog, tiramisu, hollandaise sauce, and Caesar dressing. Always use pasteurized eggs when making these and other foods made with raw eggs.
5. Do not eat raw dough or batter. Dough and batter made with flour or eggs can contain harmful germs, such as E. coli and Salmonella. Do not taste or eat raw dough or batter that is meant to be baked or cooked. This includes dough or batter for cookies, cakes, pies, biscuits, pancakes, tortillas, pizza, or crafts. Do not let children taste raw dough or batter or play with dough at home or in restaurants. Some companies and stores offer edible cookie dough that uses heat-treated flour and pasteurized eggs or no eggs. Read the label carefully to make sure the dough is meant to be eaten without baking or cooking.
6. Wash your hands with soap and water during these key times when you are likely to get and spread germs:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- Before eating food
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After handling pet food or pet treats or touching pets
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After touching garbage