It's that time of year again - Thanksgiving. And the staff of the Henry
and Stark County Health Departments note as cooks across the country ready
themselves for this annual feast day, it's important to remember that if you
don't eat the skin, and if you skim the fat from the gravy, turkey makes a
healthy feast. However, preparing this bird does bring with it some special
concerns. So to better guarantee that your Thanksgiving holiday is a
healthy one, the Health Department offers up some helpful "Turkey Tactics."
Most poultry now comes with a safe handling label - read it. If the
bird is frozen, defrost it in the refrigerator, if possible. Here are
refrigerator thawing times for various size turkeys:
* 8 to 12 pound turkey takes 1 to 2 days to thaw in the refrigerator
* 12 to 16 pound turkey takes 2 to 3 days to thaw in the refrigerator
* 16 to 20 pound turkey takes 3 to 4 days to thaw in the refrigerator
* Pieces of a turkey, such as a half or quarter will take 1 to 2 days
thawing time in the refrigerator
Dorothy David, Director of Environmental Health Services notes, "If the
beast is huge and you're short of time, submerge it (in its plastic
wrapping) in potable running water at a temperature of 70 degrees
fahrenheit, with sufficient water velocity to agitate and float off loose
food particles with the overflow."
If you have a small bird and a large microwave, you can safely defrost
it that way. Roast the turkey as soon as it is thawed. Any poultry can
have salmonella and other bacteria. After handling poultry, wash your hands
and utensils that have come in contact with the raw meat.
Do not thaw the turkey on the kitchen counter. A frozen turkey thaws
from the outside in. As the surface warms, bacteria multiply. While
thawing, the surface bacteria could multiply to dangerously high levels.
One cannot rely on cooking to destroy all bacteria. In addition, some food
poisoning bacteria produce toxins that can't be destroyed though cooking.
Use a meat thermometer. Cook to 170 to 175 degrees in the thickest part
of the breast, 180-185 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh, and
160-165 degrees in the stuffing. "Slow cooking" overnight is not safe
because bacteria have time to multiply.
Don't stuff a bird early. Stuff it only when ready to put it in the
oven. If you refrigerate a large stuffed uncooked turkey, the stuffing may
not chill fast enough, allowing bacteria growth. Cooking the stuffing
separately is safer.
For more information on food safety, call the Health Department
Environmental Health Division at (309) 852-0197 or 792-4011 (Henry) or
852-3115 (Stark) or visit our website at www.henrystarkhealth.com or find us
on Facebook at Henry and Stark County Health Departments.