November 14, 2002
Cooking Turkey Is A Family
Affair?With The Right Food Safety Tools
- As American families and friends gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, cooks
head to the kitchen to prepare bountiful meals. One item not on the grocery
list, but that should be in the kitchen, is food safety. By following four
basic food safety steps, the Thanksgiving meal can be delicious and safe. In
fact, it?s so simple to follow safe food handling practices that children
?Clean. Separate. Cook. Chill. Four simple food safety steps that children
and adults can follow,? said Dr. Elsa Murano, Under Secretary for Food
Safety, U.S. Department of Agriculture, speaking today at a demonstration on
safe food preparation. ?Consumers need to know that a meal can taste great
and be safe at the same time.?
Before meal preparation begins, you must shop for a turkey. If you shop
ahead, then you?ll probably want to purchase a frozen turkey. If you?re
purchasing a turkey within 1-2 days of cooking it, then you can safely
purchase a fresh turkey.
Frozen turkeys should be thawed prior to cooking. Turkeys, along with all
raw and frozen meat and poultry products, must be kept at a safe temperature
during thawing. Any harmful bacteria that may have been present prior to
freezing can begin to grow again unless proper
thawing methods are used.
There are three safe ways to thaw a turkey or other food: in the
refrigerator at 40 ºF or less; in cold water; and in the microwave. When
thawing in the refrigerator, allow 24 hours of thawing time for every five
pounds of turkey. When thawing in cold water, allow 30 minutes per pound and
change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. When thawing
in the microwave, follow the manufacturer?s instructions. Plan to cook the
immediately after thawing because some areas of the turkey may become warm
and begin to cook during microwave thawing.
?Everyone who will help prepare the meal needs to begin with clean hands, so
make hand washing a frequent activity when in the kitchen,? said Dr. Murano.
?We generally recommend washing hands that have come in contact with raw
meat or poultry for 20 seconds in hot,
After handwashing, children can help by gathering cooking pans and utensils,
and bringing food from the refrigerator to the counter. At this time, be
sure that utensils, plates, work surfaces, etc., have been thoroughly
?Many people don?t realize that food safety in their homes is as important
as the precautions taken by manufacturers and retailers before the food
reaches the home,? said Dr.
Garry McKee, FSIS Administrator. ?Be sure to avoid cross-contamination by
separating raw meat and poultry from foods that will not be cooked, such as
salad fixings and bread.?
While children may want to help prepare a vegetable salad or butter the
rolls, be sure those foods are kept away from the raw turkey. Raw meat and
poultry products may contain harmful bacteria, so it is important that the
juices from raw meat and poultry products do not come
into contact with food that will be consumed without cooking. Also, never
place cooked food on an unwashed plate that previously held raw meat or
?Did you know that using a food thermometer could make your turkey taste
better?? asked Dr. Murano. ?It?s true. You won?t overcook your turkey --
trying to make it safe -- if you use a food thermometer, which is the only
way to verify turkey has reached a high enough temperature to destroy
Using a food thermometer is easy enough that children can help. Be sure to
get the turkey to a safe position on the stovetop or in the oven so that
nobody is burned from the hot cooking pan or juices. Insert the food
thermometer into the turkey and children can read the temperature.
Follow these temperatures to ensure a safe turkey:
Whole turkey should to reach 180 ºF between the breast and the innermost
part of the thigh;
Turkey breast should to reach 170 ºF in the thickest part of the breast;
Turkey thighs and wings should reach 180 ºF in the thickest part of the
Stuffing, cooked alone or in the bird, should reach 165 ºF in its center.
If you choose to stuff a turkey, then you must use a food thermometer to
check the internal temperature of the turkey and the stuffing. The
temperature of the turkey must reach 180 ºF in the innermost part of the
thigh and the center of the stuffing must reach 165 ºF. If the stuffing has
not reached 165 ºF, then continue cooking the turkey until it does.
?Following the ?chill? step is important because foodborne bacteria can grow
while food sits unrefrigerated,? said Dr. McKee.
Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food, and leftovers within two
hours. Cut turkey into smaller pieces. Slice the breast meat. Wings and legs
may be left whole. Place turkey into shallow containers for storing in the
refrigerator. Children can help by clearing the table and placing foods into
shallow containers for the refrigerator or freezer.
Change the battery in your smoke alarm when you change your clock's setting
Have a professional check your furnace for carbon monoxide leaks and your
chimney for blockages; put a CO alarm in the hallway near every separate
Prevent electrocutions by installing a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)
in your household outlets.
Installing Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) can prevent electrical
fires. AFCIs can sense electrical arc and trip the circuit.
Babies on adult beds risk suffocation from hidden hazards such as entrapment
between the bed and wall; entrapment involving the bed frame, headboard and
footboard; or soft bedding such as pillows or thick quilts and comforters.