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Turkey tips for Thanksgiving day feast

Well, it’s that time again.

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Well, it’s that time again. The year has rolled around quickly. Thanksgiving is upon us, with the family in from out of town, reminiscing of years past at the dinner table, with the traditional turkey, dressing and all the trimmings.

Thanksgiving is also a time for giving and sharing with friends and family.

The most important meal of the year should be carefully planned out, with food safety in mind. Be sure not to let foods sit out too long, that’s a sure way to get salmonella poisoning. They should be refrigerated immediately when the meal is over. Turkey, dressing and foods made with mayonnaise, salad dressing or eggs are great magnets to bacteria, when sitting out for a period of time.

There are three safe ways to thaw food – in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave oven. Do not thaw a turkey over 40 °F.

When thawing a turkey in the refrigerator, place it on a platter in the refrigerator. For every 5 pounds, allow approximately 24 hours of thawing.

In cold water, allow about 30 minutes per pound. Be sure the turkey is in leak proof packaging. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey thaws.

In the microwave, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. The turkey must be cooked immediately after thawing.

The safest way to cook stuffing is in a casserole, not inside a bird.

Cooking a stuffed turkey is riskier than cooking one not stuffed.

Thawing and stuffing a turkey safely are the first two basics. But cooking is the only way to destroy bacteria. The oven temperature must be set no lower than 325 °F. Overnight cooking of a turkey at a low temperature can result in foodborne illness.

The internal temperature, on a food thermometer, of a whole turkey must reach 180 °F in the innermost part of the thigh. If the turkey has a "pop-up" temperature indicator, it is also recommended that a food thermometer be used to test the turkey in several places. To read more "Turkey Basics" and print a cooking time chart, go to www.fsis.usda.gov/oa/pubs/tbcook.htm.

For additional food safety information about meat, poultry, or egg products, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline’s toll-free number 1 (800) 535-4555; Washington D.C. area (202) 720-3333. The toll-free number for the hearing impaired (TTY) is 1 (800) 256-7072. The Hotline is staffed by food safety experts, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Eastern time. In addition, food safety information is available on the FSIS Web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov.

So, let’s enjoy a healthy, happy and safe holiday with the ones you treasure the most.