USDA: Turkey Preparation Should Start Days Before Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and the USDA says now is the time to start preparing that big meal. USDA Food safety expert Meredith Carothers says one of the biggest problems she routinely see, deals with defrosting the holiday bird. While a popular technique, she says defrosting the turkey on your counter is very unsafe. She said when the turkey sits at room temperatures, it falls into the danger zone of 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Surface bacteria and different bacteria within the poultry can actually start to multiple to dangerous levels, so much to a point that they can produce heat resistant toxins that will ultimately won’t be killed by the cooking process, and that’s when you consume those will make you sick.”

So where’s the best to defrost the turkey? The refrigerator. Carothers noted it will take extra time using the fridge, so the rule of thumb is 24 hours of defrosting for every five pounds. And if need be, you can cook your turkey from frozen.

Another concern this time of year, cross-contamination.

“Turkey is a large object, usually, and it’s kind of hard to handle it at times and there’s those raw juices that can splatter places or you may touch the turkey when you prepare it and forget to wash your hands and then touch something else.  It’s all really a big concern, so we want to mitigate those risks as much as possible to not let cross contamination be an issue.”

If you have specific questions, the USDA’s Meat And Poultry Hotline is available to field your questions.  They will even be open Thanksgiving Day. Call (888) M-P-Hotline (674-6854) to talk with a Food Safety expert.

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