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Safety tips for turkey thawing | Health

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Safety tips for turkey thawing
Safety tips for turkey thawing

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. -- Turkeys can be purchased fresh or frozen.  Fulton County Cooperative Extension encourages residents to think “safety” while preparing for a delicious Thanksgiving dinner. The Center for Disease Control estimates that each year roughly 1 out of 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.

“We believe that following proper food safety techniques for thawing poultry will help minimize the potential for a food borne illness,” states Menia Chester, Director for Fulton County Cooperative Extension. “Properly thawing out a turkey is very important.”

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a turkey must be kept at a safe temperature while it is thawing. When a turkey begins to thaw, any bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow again.  The only way to destroy bacteria on your turkey is to cook it to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension specialists recommend three methods of thawing a turkey:  the refrigerator method, the cold water method, and thawing in the microwave method.  Note: Never thaw a turkey at room temperature!

Refrigerator Method

For every five pounds allow roughly 24 hours of thawing time.  After thawing, keep the turkey refrigerated for two days or less.

Cold Water Method

A whole turkey can be thawed by placing the turkey in an airtight container or a leak proof bag and submerging it in cold water.  Be sure to change the water every thirty minutes to guarantee the water and the turkey stays cold.  Cook the turkey immediately after thawing.

Microwave Method

Follow the manufacturer’s instruction when thawing a turkey in the microwave and be sure the turkey will fit into the microwave.  Cook the turkey immediately after thawing because some areas of the turkey may start to cook during the microwave thawing process.

Other food safety helpful hints

Clean: Be sure to keep your hands and surfaces clean by washing with hot soapy water. Paper towels are recommended for cleaning up kitchen surfaces.

Separate: Stop cross-contamination when handling raw meats and ready-to eat foods by using one cutting board for raw meat and poultry and another one for other food. 

Cook: Be sure to cook foods to proper temperatures. Cook roasts and steaks to at least 145 degrees and poultry to at least 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh. Use a food thermometer to determine the temperature of food.

Chill: Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours.  Be sure to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

Holidays are times we share the kitchen with family and friends. Make it a goal this Thanksgiving to also share good food safety practices.

For more helpful food safety tips, call Fulton County Cooperative Extension at 404-332-2400 or visit www.foodsafety.gov.