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Talking Turkey

A Safety Message from Durham Region Health Department

Turkey Talk

Never thaw a frozen turkey at room temperature on the kitchen counter.

  • frozen turkeys should be thawed on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, using a deep pan to prevent leaking blood and meat juices from contaminating other foods in the fridge; allow 24 hours of defrosting time for each two and a half kilograms of turkey
  • for faster thawing, place the frozen turkey in cold water in a large sink keeping the bird in its original packaging; keep cold water running over the turkey throughout the thawing period or drain and refill the sink with fresh cold water every hour until the bird is thawed
  • it is important to keep the turkey at or below 4°C (40°F) (refrigeration temperature) throughout the entire thawing period.

Always refrigerate fresh turkeys.

  • keep fresh turkeys in the refrigerator at 4°C (40°F) or colder until ready to prepare.

Frequent and thorough hand washing is one of the most important ways to protect against germs.

  • always wash your hands for at least 15 seconds with warm water and lots of soap prior to handling foods
  • the surface of raw meats often harbour harmful germs; be sure to wash hands thoroughly again after touching a raw turkey.

Carefully clean counter tops and all utensils prior to preparing the turkey and any other foods.

  • wash the inside and outside of the turkey under cold running water
  • once turkey is washed, immediately clean sink, counter surfaces, utensils, cutting board and anything else that came in contact with the raw turkey in warm, soapy water; follow by rinsing all areas with clean water and sanitizing all surfaces with mild bleach and water solution to kill any remaining germs; following this process can help reduce the risk of cross-contaminating other foods and utensils
  • the Health Department recommends a sanitizing solution of 10 millilitres of bleach for every one litre of water.

When cooking the turkey, set oven no lower than 160°C (320°F).

  • use an accurate meat probe thermometer to ensure that the thickest part of the bird reaches a final internal temperature of at least 82°C (180°F) prior to serving.

It is highly recommended to cook stuffing separately from the turkey.

  • if you must stuff the bird while cooking, use your meat probe thermometer to ensure that the centre of the stuffing reaches a minimum temperature of 74°C (165°F)to ensure that it is safe to eat
  • remember, as the turkey cooks, all meat juices run to the centre of the cavity where they contaminate the stuffing; many people become ill after Christmas because their stuffing is undercooked and still contains harmful germs
  • turkey gravy should be brought to a rolling boil and then simmered at over 60°C (140°F) until served.

Once the meal is over, it is important to cool leftover meat, stuffing and gravy to a refrigerator temperature of 4°C (40°F) within six hours.

  • remove all leftover turkey meat and stuffing from the bird within an hour of eating
  • layer warm meat and stuffing in a shallow container and refrigerate promptly
  • pour gravy into a cold container and refrigerate
  • cover storage containers lightly with plastic wrap or lid to allow steam to escape while foods cool; follow by covering tightly to avoid possible spills or contamination.

It is advisable to use refrigerated leftover turkey, gravy and stuffing within two to three days.

  • Alternatively, you can freeze leftovers and keep them for up to three months.

When reheating leftover turkey, gravy and stuffing, ensure that the final internal temperatures of each reach a minimum of 74°C (165°F) within two hours.