To Keep Everyone Healthy

Here are some tips for preparing holiday turkeys from the United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Happy Holidays!
Take the turkey home directly from the grocery store. Place the turkey immediately in the refrigerator or freezer. Prevent juices from dripping onto other foods in the refrigerator by placing wrapped turkey on a tray.

A fresh turkey should be cooked within two days.

Thawing turkey at room temperature allows bacterial growth and is not recommended.

Refrigerator thawing is recommended: defrost frozen turkeys in the refrigerator, allowing 24 hours for each five pounds. If time is short, however, place the frozen turkey in cold water, allowing about 30 minutes per pound. Change the water every half-hour.

A turkey may be defrosted in the microwave if the oven is large enough. Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. Cook microwave-defrosted turkeys immediately after defrosting.

Place raw poultry on non-porous surfaces; these are easy to clean. Avoid wooden cutting boards.

Use paper towels, not cloth, to dry off turkey and wipe up juices. Wash hands, work surfaces and utensils touched by raw poultry and its juices with hot, soapy water.

Foodborne illness could occur if the stuffing is not cooked and handled properly. The safest way to prepare stuffing is to bake it in a separate casserole dish outside the bird. However, many people still prefer to cook stuffing in the turkey. Here's how to make in-turkey stuffing preparation safer.

Mix the stuffing just before it goes into the turkey. Use only cooked ingredients ? such as saut?d vegetables, and cooked meats and seafood (oysters) ? and use pasteurized egg products instead of raw eggs. If more convenient, the wet and dry ingredients can be prepared ahead of time and chilled.

Stuff the bird properly. The turkey should be stuffed loosely ? about ? cup of stuffing per pound of turkey. This will help allow the stuffing to reach the proper 165?F internal temperature.

What about frozen turkeys stuffed at a USDA-inspected plant? Turkeys purchased frozen at a grocery store should be safe when cooked from the frozen state, but the manufacturer's directions should be followed carefully.

When the turkey is cooked on an outdoor grill, water smoker or by fast cook methods where the turkey typically gets done faster than the stuffing, do not stuff the bird!

The stuffed turkey should be placed immediately in a preheated oven set no lower than 325? F and cooked to the proper temperature. Cooking overnight in a "slow" oven is not recommended since foodborne bacteria can form under these conditions.

The tip of any oven-safe meat thermometer should be placed in the thigh muscle just above and beyond the lower part of the thigh bone, but not touching the bone, and pointing towards the body. Turn the thermometer so it can be read while the turkey is in the oven.

Checking for doneness:
Always use a meat thermometer. Turkey is done when the meat thermometer reaches the following temperatures:

Temperature Location Observations
180?F to 185?F Deep in the thigh. Juices should be clear, not pink when thigh muscle is pierced deeply.
170?F to 175?F Thickest part of the breast, just above the rib bones. Juices also should be clear.
160?F to 165?F Center of the stuffing, if turkey is stuffed.  

When the stuffed turkey is done, remove turkey from oven and let turkey with stuffing stand 15 to 20 minutes. This stand time provides an added measure of safety for stuffing temperature to reach 165?F.

Checking the stuffing temperature with a thermometer is essential. That's because even if the turkey itself has reached the proper internal temperature of 180? F in the innermost part of the thigh, the stuffing may not have reached the correct temperature of 165? F in its center. It is important to reach this temperature in all parts of the stuffing to be sure that foodborne bacteria are destroyed.

Dealing with leftovers:
Leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking and should be chilled to less than 45?F within four hours. Do not leave the cooked turkey out all day to nibble on!

Cut the turkey off the bones. Refrigerate the stuffing and the turkey separately in shallow containers. Use leftover turkey within three to four days; stuffing and gravy, in one or two days.

When freezing, wrap in heavy foil, freezer wrap or place in freezer container. For optimum taste, use stuffing within one month and turkey within two months.

When reheating leftovers, the turkey and stuffing should be reheated to 165?F. Gravy should be brought to a rolling

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