Thanksgiving is a time when we share the kitchen with family and friends but hopefully do not share food borne illnesses through unsafe preparation and cross-contamination.
The USDA and Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), have partnered to give some simple tips that all cooks in the kitchen can follow this holiday season for cooking a delicious and safely prepared turkey.
Turkey Basics: Safely Thaw, Prepare, Stuff, and Cook
When preparing a turkey, be aware of the four main safety issues: thawing, preparing, stuffing, and cooking to the adequate temperature.
Safely thaw a Thanksgiving Turkey
“The Big Thaw”
Turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature during “the big thaw.” While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely. However, as soon as it begins to thaw, any bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow again.
A package of frozen meat or poultry left thawing on the counter more than 2 hours is not at a safe temperature. Even though the center of the package may still be frozen, the outer layer of the food is in the “Danger Zone” between 40 and 140 °F — at a temperature where foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly.
There are three ways to thaw a frozen turkey safely — in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave oven.
How long to thaw a frozen turkey in the refrigerator (40 °F or below)
Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds
4 to 12 pounds 1 to 3 days
12 to 16 pounds 3 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds 4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds 5 to 6 days
Keep the turkey in its original wrapper. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. If necessary, a turkey that has been properly thawed in the refrigerator may be refrozen.
How long to thaw a frozen turkey in cold water
Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound
4 to 12 pounds 2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds 10 to 12 hours
Wrap your turkey securely, making sure the water is not able to leak through the wrapping. Submerge your wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze.
How long to thaw a frozen turkey in a microwave oven
Check your owner’s manual for the size turkey that will fit in your microwave oven, the minutes per pound and power level to use for thawing.
Remove all outside wrapping.
Place on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that may leak.
Cook your turkey immediately. Do not refreeze or refrigerate your turkey after thawing in the microwave oven.