Cooking the Turkey: 3 Tips to Avoid Foodborne Illness
By Virginia Laird
Now is the time to make the shopping list for all the necessities for your holiday meal. At the top of the list, for millions across the nation, is a turkey (probably large enough to feed an army). Once you have the bird in hand, are you sure you know how to cook it in order to avoid foodborne illnesses? Nutrition specialists are putting out advice on how to prepare the turkey to avoid food poisoning and other bacteria which can be harmful to the consumer. These specialists remind those preparing the meal that raw meat of any kind can carry harmful bacteria, making it vital to handle the meat carefully. It is necessary to wash your hands immediately after coming in contact with the meat and before touching any other food you may be prepping. Other advice on the list include:
- Avoid washing the turkey prior to cooking
- Thaw the bird completely before cooking
- Check the temperature in multiple places
Avoid Washing the Turkey Prior to Cooking
While many believe it is necessary to wash the turkey before cooking it, nutritionists advise just the opposite. Washing the turkey does not remove bacteria from the uncooked bird, rather it exposes the meat to other surfaces where bacteria could be shared. Note to self: Skip the bird bath.
Thaw the Bird Completely Before Cooking
Thawing the turkey is one of the most controversial ideas behind preparing the holiday meal. Some believe it is perfectly acceptable to cook a turkey without making sure it is completely thawed. This is an issue for many reasons, including:
- It can cause uneven cooking, making some of the bird dry
- It can take longer to cook the turkey until completely done
- It can increase the chances of growing bacteria in the turkey
A variety of food specialists, nutritionists, and healthcare professionals encourage those preparing the holiday meal to make certain to thaw the turkey (or ham) properly. This would be placing it in the fridge for 24 hours, allowing it to thaw while in a cool location. Putting the bird on the counter or in warm water to thaw can increase the chances of bacteria and foodborne illness.
Check the Temperature in Multiple Places
Checking the temperature of the turkey is the only sure way to know it is thoroughly cooked. Nutritionists and healthcare professionals suggest that checking the temperature in only one location of the bird is not sufficient. It is wise to measure the temperature in at least three different locations to make certain the entire turkey is fully cooked.
Now that you have all the facts about cooking your holiday dinner, get your apron out and start prepping your kitchen for the best holiday feast!
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