TURKEY TALK #3

Turkey Handling, Safety & Storage

Contamination Prevention | Cooking Safety | Proper Storage

Contamination Prevention

Shopping

When shopping for fresh turkey, make sure it is among the last items selected so that the length of time it is without refrigeration is as short as possible. This will help reduce the growth of harmful bacteria on the turkey between the time when it is purchased and when it is placed in the refrigerator at home. If the turkey is without refrigeration for more than an hour, because of the travel time from the market, a cooler with ice should be used to transport it, and any other perishable items, for the duration of the travel time. This is also true with frozen turkey as it may begin to thaw if it is away from the freezer compartment for more than an hour.

Avoid purchasing a fresh turkey that has been placed too high in an open refrigeration case in a food store. The temperature of the turkey may not be low enough to prevent the rapid growth of harmful bacteria. Any temperature between 40°F and 140°F is considered unsafe for storing turkey. If a frozen turkey is purchased, it should be placed in the home freezer compartment as soon as possible.

Cleanliness

It is important to follow the basic rules of cleanliness when preparing turkey. Work surfaces, dishes, and utensils should be thoroughly washed with soap and hot water after using them. Bleach can be used as a disinfectant for cutting boards and other work surfaces or an antibacterial spray may be used. When taste testing food, do not use the same utensil that was used during preparation and be sure that a clean spoon or fork is used for each taste to eliminate the spread of germs. Beware of kitchen washcloths and towels that have been used on multiple surfaces because they can spread germs. Use paper towels or other disposable cloths whenever possible.

Cross Contamination

The following points should be considered to reduce the risk of cross contamination when preparing turkey:

* Various types of foods should be kept separate from each other during storage and preparation. Never store ready to eat foods next to raw meats. Bacteria that may be present on raw turkey may contaminate the ready to eat foods.
* It is very important to wash your hands often during food preparation to avoid transferring harmful bacteria from one food item to the next. If you were handling raw turkey, for example, you would want to wash your hands thoroughly before chopping vegetables to reduce the risk of transferring bacteria from the turkey to the vegetables.
* If cutting boards are used in your kitchen, it is a good idea to use one for meats and a different one for fruits and vegetables. Cutting surfaces made from tempered glass are safer to use because you don't have to worry about cracks and pores harboring bacteria as you do with wood or plastic surfaces. Tempered glass surfaces are also the easiest to clean. Regardless of the material they are made from, cutting boards should be thoroughly cleaned after each use.
* The knife that was used to cut raw turkey should not be used to chop vegetables unless the knife has been thoroughly washed first.
* When serving cooked turkey, do not place it on the plate that contained the raw meat.

Note: Foodborne illness, resulting from turkey that has been improperly handled or undercooked, may not have a similar effect on everyone. Young children, the elderly, and people with chronic illnesses are the most susceptible to foodborne illnesses. The bacteria that cause the illness may not make a person sick until several days after eating the affected food and by that time the illness is usually thought of as being the result of some other cause.

Thawing

The following points should be considered to reduce the risk of contamination when thawing turkey:

* When thawing turkey in cold water, make sure the water is very cold and if the original wrapper has any punctures or tears in it, the turkey should be placed in another plastic bag and sealed. The water must be changed every 30 minutes.
* Do not allow turkey to reach room temperature before it is cooked, as this can promote the growth of harmful bacteria. Turkey should be cooked as soon as possible after its removal from refrigeration.
* Raw turkey that has been thawed should never be refrozen because this increases the risk of food poisoning when the meat is finally used.
* Turkey that has been thawed in the microwave must be cooked immediately after thawing. Do not place the turkey back in the refrigerator with the intention of cooking it at a later time. The defrosting process in the microwave may create hot spots on areas of the turkey that will promote the growth of bacteria, which requires that the turkey be cooked immediately.
* A frozen prestuffed turkey should not be thawed before it is cooked because bacteria can rapidly multiply in the stuffing while the turkey is defrosting.

Stuffing

The following points should be considered to reduce the risk of contamination when stuffing turkey:

* NEVER stuff the turkey in advance. The stuffing may promote the rapid growth of harmful bacteria. Always cook the turkey immediately after stuffing.
* Stuffing that is placed inside the turkey is often undercooked because many cooks do not allow for the extra cooking time required for a stuffed bird. This increases the chances of food poisoning. Always use a meat thermometer to verify that the temperature of the stuffing has reached a minimum of 165°F.
* Consider cooking the stuffing separate from the turkey. The stuffing can be placed in a baking dish which reduces the risk of bacterial growth in the body cavity of the turkey and also allows the turkey to cook faster.
* All of the stuffing should be removed from the turkey after it is cooked.
* Leftover cooked stuffing should be refrigerated and used within 1 to 2 days and should never be frozen for use at a later date.
* Leftover stuffing that has been cooked inside the turkey should be reheated to a minimum temperature of 165°F.

Cooking Safety

A turkey should be roasted at a temperature ranging from 325°F to 350°F. Higher temperatures may cause the meat to dry out, but this is preferable to temperatures that are too low which may not allow the interior of the turkey to cook to the proper temperature. Roasting a turkey for long periods at a temperature of less than 300°F is dangerous and may cause food poisoning.

Some cooks have the mistaken idea that time can be saved by partially roasting a turkey and placing it back into the refrigerator so that less time will be required for roasting on the day the meal will be served. This is a dangerous practice, which encourages harmful bacteria to multiply at a very rapid rate, resulting in food poisoning. Once begun, the cooking process should be allowed to continue until the turkey is cooked to the proper internal temperature.

A meat thermometer should be used to determine the correct doneness. When the interior of the breast meat reaches 170°F and the interior of the thigh reaches 180°F, the turkey is properly cooked. When the meat is pierced with a fork, the juices will run clear. Some whole turkeys are sold with pop-up timers that indicate when the turkey is fully cooked, but a meat thermometer is still the most reliable tool for determining the proper doneness. If the turkey is done cooking before you are ready to serve it, it is safe to keep it in a 200°F oven for a short period. It is best to cover the turkey with aluminum foil during the holding period to keep it from drying out.

The internal temperature of the breast meat should be a minimum of 170°F.

Note: The meat near the bones of a turkey (or any poultry) may still look a bit pink even if a meat thermometer indicates that the turkey is fully cooked. This is because younger turkeys have bones that are more porous than older turkeys, which allows red pigment to leach out from the bones to the nearby meat during the cooking process. The turkey is safe to eat as long as the internal temperature of the breast meat has reached 170°F or higher and the thigh meat is 180°F or higher and the juices run clear.

The type of method used for cooking turkey may also pose a danger if it is not properly performed. Deep-frying is becoming a popular method for cooking whole turkeys, but extreme care is necessary to ensure safety. Because the required equipment can be cumbersome and the large quantity of hot oil necessary for cooking a whole bird can be dangerous, deep-frying a whole turkey is much less safe than deep-frying food on a smaller scale. It is important to note that Underwriters Laboratories has refused to certify any turkey deep-frying equipment because of the dangers involved. Listed below are some important points to consider when deep-frying turkey:

* Because of the size of the cooking equipment and the large quantity of oil required, deep-frying a whole turkey should never be attempted indoors. Pieces of turkey meat can be safely deep-fried indoors using using traditional equipment such as a small pot on a stove top.
* When purchasing a deep-fryer designed for cooking whole turkeys, make sure the model has a solid base that will hold the cooking pot firmly. Models with tripod legs should be avoided because they can easily tip.
* The pot must be large enough to accommodate the turkey, but not so large that it becomes wobbly on the heating surface.
* Do not overfill the pot with oil. When the turkey is placed into the pot, the oil may spill over the sides and ignite on the heating unit.
* The temperature of the oil should be closely watched. If the oil overheats, it may ignite.
* If the turkey is not completely thawed when it is inserted into the hot oil, it may cause the oil to spill over because of the reaction of the hot oil to the frozen bird.
* Any utensils and equipment that come into contact with the hot oil must be thoroughly dried first. Moisture on the utensils will cause splattering when brought into contact with the hot oil, which can be dangerous.
* Make sure the turkey is as dry as possible before it enters the hot oil.
* The deep-frying equipment should be used a safe distance from all combustible substances. Never place the cooker on a deck, near any building, or on a table.
* The hot oil should not be left unattended and children and pets should NEVER be allowed near the cooking area.
* A fire extinguisher and heavy potholders should always be within reach.
* After the cooking is completed, the oil should not be transferred to another container or disposed of until it has completely cooled. It is extremely dangerous to pour the oil from the cooking vessel until it has cooled. Several hours may be required for the large quantity of oil to cool properly.

Proper Storage

Raw Turkey

A fresh whole turkey or fresh turkey parts may be stored in the refrigerator at 33°F to 40°F for 1 or 2 days before cooking. It is best to place turkey products in the coldest part of the refrigerator, which is usually the meat drawer or the bottom shelf.

Make sure any juices from raw turkey do not come in contact with any other food items. Packaged raw turkey parts can be placed on a plate in the refrigerator to ensure that none of the juices drip onto any other food items. A whole turkey should be left in the original packaging until it is ready to cook. It can also be placed on a tray or in a pan in the refrigerator in case there are punctures or tears in the packaging.

If fresh turkey needs to be stored longer than 1 or 2 days, it must be frozen; otherwise, it may begin to spoil in the refrigerator. A whole fresh or frozen turkey should be left in its original wrapper and may be stored for 6 months in the freezer compartment if the temperature is at 0°F or lower. If the original wrapping is torn or punctured, the turkey should be rewrapped in heavy-duty freezer paper or aluminum foil. Raw turkey parts should be rewrapped with freezer paper or aluminum foil and may be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Turkey parts do not keep as long as a whole turkey because there is more surface area exposed to bacteria.

If turkey is improperly stored in the freezer it may become discolored and dehydrated. This is known as freezer burn. Exposure to the cold, dry air of the freezer compartment can cause moisture loss, especially if the turkey is packaged incorrectly and/or stored in the freezer for an excessive length of time. It is best to leave whole turkeys in the original packaging unless it is torn. Turkey parts should be removed from the original wrapping and rewrapped before placing them in the freezer for long-term storage. A layer of plastic wrap followed by a layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil works well as protection against freezer burn. Heavy white freezer paper is another alternative for protecting the meat. It is important to note that freezing fresh turkey may have an affect on the flavor, texture, and appearance of the meat when it is cooked at a later date, and in some cases, there may be a noticeable difference between fresh and frozen. Turkey that is frozen by the processor will have little difference in quality compared to fresh turkey because commercial freezing is a much faster process than home freezing, resulting in turkey that retains most of its original quality.

Cooked Turkey

Leftover cooked turkey meat must be removed from the bones as soon as possible after the meal and refrigerated promptly. Wings and legs may be refrigerated without removing the meat from the bones, but any remaining meat on the body must be removed especially if the turkey has been stuffed. Any leftover meat that has been in contact with the stuffing should be discarded if it is not used within a day or two. If the leftover turkey is to be frozen, then all of the bones should be removed, including the wing and leg bones.

Cooked turkey should not be away from refrigeration longer than 2 hours after cooking. Cooked food left at room temperature for more than two hours should be discarded. Temperatures between 40°F and 140°F allow bacteria to grow rapidly, which means that hot foods should be kept hot (above 140°F) and cold foods should be kept cold (below 40 °F). Cooked turkey that is properly refrigerated should be used within 3 or 4 days. If this is not possible, the leftover turkey may be tightly wrapped in freezer paper or aluminum foil and placed in the freezer where it may be kept for 3 to 4 months.

Leftover stuffing may be kept in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days and should never be frozen for later use. If it is not used within 1 or 2 days, it should be discarded. When reheating, the stuffing should be allowed to reach a temperature of not less than 165°F. Leftover gravy may be refrigerated safely for 1 or 2 days and it should be boiled before serving.

Additional Tips

Listed below are additional tips that should be considered when storing turkey:

* Placing leftovers in shallow containers in the refrigerator allows leftover cooked food to cool more quickly.
* If you have a large quantity of leftover cooked turkey, it may be best to store some of it in the freezer as soon as possible.
* Leftover turkey should not be frozen after it has been in the refrigerator for several days because it will have deteriorated in quality beyond the point that is safe for long term storage.
* When eating outdoors, food should not be consumed that has been without refrigeration for more than an hour, especially in hot weather.
* In order to reduce the risk of foodborne illness, it is important to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
* Poultry products and all raw meat inspected by the USDA will have information on the label regarding proper handling and storage.

Turkey Shopping Guide

Read the Label | Inspection and Grading
Look and Feel | Quantity to Buy | Shopping Tips

Read the Label

When purchasing a whole turkey, turkey parts, or any type of turkey product, it is important to read the label to ensure that you are selecting a product that fits your requirements. Whole turkeys sold in food stores are inspected by the USDA, so you can be sure that the turkeys are safe and of good quality. Look for the USDA stamp on the label.

The youngest turkeys have the most tender meat. Most commercially produced turkeys are young turkeys, so the meat is usually always tender if the turkey is rated Grade A and if it is cooked properly. The youngest turkeys that are available, usually less than 4 months old and under 8 pounds in weight, are labeled fryer/roasters and have the most tender meat of all.

The designation of the turkey being male (tom) or female (hen) may or may not be found on the label because it has nothing to do with the tenderness or overall quality of the bird. The main difference is that a tom turkey ready for market is larger than a hen.

Turkey processors and food stores use several different dating methods to ensure that the consumer receives a product that is fresh and safe to eat. The dating methods are described in the table below.
Product Dating Methods

Sell By

A whole turkey or turkey product that has the words, “sell by”, followed by a date stamped on the package, indicates that the food store may display the product for sale until that date and the consumer should purchase the turkey or turkey product before the date expires. The turkey is still safe to use for another one or two days beyond the sell by date.

Best if Used By or Best if Used Before

A product with the words, “best if used by” or “best if used before”, followed by a date, indicates that the optimum flavor and quality can be enjoyed if the turkey is prepared before the date expires. The date does not indicate that product is unsafe to eat after the expiration date.

Use By

A whole turkey or turkey product with a “use by” date stamped on the package indicates the final date that the product should be used.

Note: If you decide to freeze a fresh turkey after purchasing it, the expiration dates are meaningless because the product is no longer perishable while it is frozen. The date stamped on the package can serve as an indication of the time period that the turkey was purchased so that it can be used within the recommended limits for freezing.

The label on fresh and frozen turkey will also show the nutritional information. The nutritional information will include the recommended serving size, calories, fat and cholesterol content, and a list of the nutrients including vitamins and minerals. As required by the USDA, the label will contain helpful information pertaining to food safety and proper handling. Cooking instructions are also included.

Inspection and Grading

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) inspects turkeys for quality. The USDA seal can be found on the package, ensuring that the turkey has passed inspection and is suitable for human consumption. Most turkeys sold in food stores are designated “Grade A”, meaning that they are of the highest quality. Grade A turkeys have no surface damage such as broken skin, tears, bruises, or cuts and all pinfeathers have been removed. There are no broken bones and the bird is plump and has a pleasing shape. Turkeys that do not receive a Grade A seal are still safe to eat, but their appearance and overall quality may be less than ideal. The other grades given to turkey, as well as other kinds of poultry are Grade B and Grade C. Poultry is graded according to the following criteria:

* Conformation (proportion of meat to bone)
* Fat coverage
* Fleshing
* Absence of pinfeathers
* Absence of damage, including cuts, bruises, and broken bones

Look and Feel

Inspecting and feeling fresh turkey can provide information not found on the label. Look for indications that the whole turkey or turkey pieces have been stored at improper temperatures. Fresh turkey pieces can be squeezed or pressure can be applied to the package to feel for signs of freezing. Look for ice crystals forming on the bottom tray of the packaging or along the wings and edges of the pieces, which indicates that the turkey has been stored in temperatures that are too cold. Partial freezing is not harmful in terms of wholesomeness, but it will not extend the “sell by” date.

It is also important to be aware of whole turkeys or turkey pieces that are stacked too high in open refrigerator cases in a food store. The turkeys at the top of the pile will not be chilled to the proper temperature because they are above the proper storage level of the refrigerator case. This can result in the growth of bacteria especially if the temperature rises above 40°F, which will greatly decrease the time period that the turkey is safe to eat.

A similar problem occurs with frozen turkey that is stacked too high in an open freezer case in a food store. The turkeys on the top may be above the freezing line of the freezer case, which results in the turkeys being stored in temperatures that are inadequate for proper freezing. A frozen turkey should be rock hard and show no sign of freezer damage.

Quantity to Buy

If you are unsure of the quantity of turkey to purchase according to the number of guests you will be serving, it is always a good idea to allow for 1 pound of uncooked turkey per person when purchasing a whole turkey. This is a fairly accurate quantity per person, allowing for smaller appetites as well as extra helpings for larger appetites.

It is also important to keep in mind that a larger bird is a better value. Larger turkeys have more meat in relation to the amount of bone and cartilage. With that in mind, allow for up to 1 pound per serving when purchasing a turkey of less than 12 pounds and allow up to ¾ pound per serving when purchasing a turkey weighing over 12 pounds.

Other points to consider when purchasing turkey products:

* Allow 1¼ to 1½ pounds per person when purchasing a prestuffed turkey.
* Allow ½ pound per person when purchasing a bone-in turkey breast, which usually weighs between 4 and 8 pounds.

Shopping Tips

* When shopping for a whole turkey, it is best to purchase at least one pound per person. This will allow for plenty of extra helpings plus some leftovers. If you don't want to allow for any leftovers, plan on ¾ pound per person.
* Don't purchase a whole turkey if you find that the packaging has been punctured or torn. Make sure the packaging is intact before purchasing a whole turkey. Packaging that is punctured or ripped may indicate that the turkey has been damaged. It also allows drips to occur as the turkey is being transported from the store to the home refrigerator or when the turkey is thawing in the refrigerator.
* Food stores may run specials on whole turkeys during some holiday periods, using the low priced turkey as a "loss leader" to attract customers. You can take advantage of cost savings by purchasing two birds and storing one in the freezer for the next holiday event or any other occasion such as a summer gathering. Small turkeys cooked on an outdoor grill in the summer are becoming very popular.
* A fresh turkey is more expensive than a frozen turkey because of special handling requirements. Fresh turkeys cannot remain in a food store for as long as frozen turkeys. They are convenient to use because they do not require thawing. If you are able to allow for the time required for thawing, frozen turkeys provide the same flavor and quality as fresh turkeys.
* If you are planning to buy a fresh turkey, it is best to purchase it no more than 1 or 2 days before you plan to roast it so that it will retain the optimum freshness and quality. It should be stored in the coldest section of the refrigerator, usually the lowest shelf at the back, until you are ready to cook it.
* Some turkeys are sold with pop-up timers that are used to indicate when the turkey is fully cooked. A stem in the center of the device pops up when the internal temperature of the turkey reaches the proper level. Pop-up timers add convenience for consumers who may not possess a meat thermometer, however a meat thermometer is still the best way to make sure that the turkey has cooked long enough.

Note: When shopping for groceries, fresh turkey (as well as other perishable products) should be selected last in order to reduce the length of time the turkey is without refrigeration. If the turkey is without refrigeration for more than an hour because of the travel time from the market, a cooler with ice should be used to transport the fresh turkey, and any other perishable food items, for the duration of the travel time.

Turkey Tips and Techniques

Shopping | Stuffing | Marinating | Grilling and Broiling
Barbecuing and Smoking | Deep-Frying | Doneness | Nutritional | Food Safety | Storage

Shopping Tips

* When shopping for a whole turkey, it is best to purchase at least one pound per person. This will allow for plenty of extra helpings plus some leftovers. If you don't want to allow for any leftovers, plan on ¾ pound per person.
* Allow 1¼ to 1½ pounds per person when purchasing a prestuffed turkey.
* Allow ½ pound per person when purchasing a bone-in turkey breast, which usually weighs between 4 and 8 pounds.
* Don't purchase a whole turkey if you find that the packaging has been punctured or torn. Make sure the packaging is intact before purchasing a whole turkey. Packaging that is punctured or ripped may indicate that the turkey has been damaged. It also allows drips to occur as the turkey is being transported from the store to the home refrigerator or when the turkey is thawing in the refrigerator.
* Food stores may run specials on whole turkeys during some holiday periods, using the low priced turkey as a "loss leader" to attract customers. You can take advantage of cost savings by purchasing two birds and storing one in the freezer for the next holiday event or any other occasion such as a summer gathering. Small turkeys cooked on an outdoor grill in the summer are becoming very popular.
* A fresh turkey is more expensive than a frozen turkey because of special handling requirements. Fresh turkeys cannot remain in a food store for as long as frozen turkeys. They are convenient to use because they do not require thawing. If you are able to allow for the time required for thawing, frozen turkeys provide the same flavor and quality as fresh turkeys.
* If you are planning to buy a fresh turkey, it is best to purchase it no more than 1 or 2 days before you plan to roast it so that it will retain the optimum freshness and quality. It should be stored in the coldest section of the refrigerator, usually the lowest shelf at the back, until you are ready to cook it.
* Some turkeys are sold with pop-up timers that are used to indicate when the turkey is fully cooked. A stem in the center of the device pops up when the internal temperature of the turkey reaches the proper level. Pop-up timers add convenience for consumers who may not possess a meat thermometer, however a meat thermometer is still the best way to make sure that the turkey has cooked long enough.
* When shopping for groceries, fresh turkey (as well as other perishable products) should be selected last in order to reduce the length of time the turkey is without refrigeration. If the turkey is without refrigeration for more than an hour because of the travel time from the market, a cooler with ice should be used to transport the fresh turkey, and any other perishable food items, for the duration of the travel time.

Stuffing Tips

* The turkey should not be overstuffed. The stuffing will expand during the cooking process and some of it may not cook thoroughly because of the density of the stuffing inside the turkey.
* The stuffing should be cooked to a temperature of at least 165°F.
* Remove the stuffing from the turkey before the turkey is carved.
* Allow as much as 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey or as much as 1 cup for each guest.

Marinating Tips

* Quantity: It may not be possible to completely cover a whole turkey with the marinade, but several inches of liquid should be added to the container so that the turkey can be turned occasionally, allowing all portions of the turkey to benefit from the marinade. Turkey parts or slices of breast or thigh meat should be completely covered with the marinade.
* Soaking Time: Turkey parts require only a couple of hours marinating time, while a whole turkey should be soaked in the marinade for several hours or overnight.
* Refrigeration: Always marinate turkey in the refrigerator.
* Proper Containers: Since the marinade contains an acidic ingredient, reactive containers such as metal bowls should not be used. A large glass bowl is the best container to use, but large plastic bowls may also be used. Large plastic bags that can be sealed are ideal for marinating turkey parts.
* Reuse: The marinade should not be reused for any other purpose because of the bacteria that may be present from having been in contact with the raw turkey.

Grilling and Broiling Tips

* When grilling or broiling turkey pieces, use tongs to turn the pieces rather than piercing them with the fork. Piercing the meat allows juices to escape, which can toughen the meat.
* Make sure the heat is not too high so that the turkey doesn't get charred on the outside before the interior is cooked to the appropriate doneness.
* Turkey has a tendency to become dry when it is grilled or broiled so it must be watched carefully during the cooking process. The turkey can be coated with a little oil or it can be marinated to help prevent it from drying out while cooking.
* It is important that the turkey is grilled or broiled at the correct temperature and that the turkey is at the proper distance from the heat source to ensure that the meat will be tender and juicy.
* Always have a fire extinguisher handy when using an outdoor grill and make sure the grill is at least 10 feet from buildings or any other flammable items.
* In order to preserve the natural moistness, leave the skin on the turkey while it is grilled or broiled.
* In order to cook different sized turkey pieces at a similar rate, place the smaller pieces further from the main heat source so that they will cook at a slower rate.
* Aromatic woods including alder, hickory, or maple, can be added to the coals during the grilling process to provide a distinctive flavor to the turkey, however not to the extent provided by barbecuing, which uses indirect heat, smoke, and a more lengthy cooking time to achieve a more pronounced flavor.
* In order to speed the grilling or broiling time, turkey pieces may be microwaved first to partially cook the pieces. The partially cooked turkey must be immediately grilled or broiled after microwaving to maintain the wholesomeness of the food. Finishing the cooking at a later time may allow bacteria to grow rapidly, causing food poisoning.

Barbecuing and Smoking Tips

* Never stuff a whole turkey that is going to be barbecued or smoked because the stuffing will require too much time to reach the proper safe temperature of at least 165°F. Stuffing that is barbecued or smoked will develop an unpleasant taste, which is another reason for omitting it.
* Turkey may require additional time to reach the proper doneness if it is barbecued or smoked on a cold day.
* A meat thermometer should be used to check the internal temperature of the turkey for proper doneness.
* Never allow children or pets near the barbecue or smoker and have a fire extinguisher handy while the equipment is in use.

Deep-Frying Tips

* Because of the size of the cooking equipment and the large quantity of oil required, deep-frying a whole turkey should never be attempted indoors. Pieces of turkey meat can be safely deep-fried indoors using using traditional equipment such as a small pot on a stove top.
* When purchasing a deep-fryer designed for cooking whole turkeys, make sure the model has a solid base that will hold the cooking pot firmly. Models with tripod legs should be avoided because they can easily tip.
* The pot must be large enough to accommodate the turkey, but not so large that it becomes wobbly on the heating surface.
* Do not overfill the pot with oil. When the turkey is placed into the pot, the oil may spill over the sides and ignite on the heating unit.
* The temperature of the oil should be closely watched. If the oil overheats, it may ignite.
* If the turkey is not completely thawed when it is inserted into the hot oil, it may cause the oil to spillover because of the reaction of the hot oil to the frozen bird.
* Any utensils and equipment that come into contact with the hot oil must be thoroughly dried first. Moisture on the utensils will cause splattering when brought into contact with the hot oil, which can be dangerous.
* Make sure the turkey is as dry as possible before it enters the hot oil.
* The deep-frying equipment should be used a safe distance from all combustible substances. Never place the cooker on a deck, near any building, or on top of a table.
* The hot oil should not be left unattended and children and pets should NEVER be allowed near the cooking area.
* A fire extinguisher and heavy potholders should always be within reach.
* After the cooking is completed, the oil should not be transferred to another container or disposed of until it has completely cooled. It is extremely dangerous to pour the oil from the cooking vessel until it has cooled. Several hours may be required for the large quantity of oil to cool properly.

Doneness Tips

* A whole turkey should be cooked until the internal temperature of the breast meat reaches 170°F and the deepest portion of the thigh reaches 180°F. White meat cooks faster than dark meat and it will dry out quickly if it is overcooked. It is always a good idea to check the temperature in both the breast and the thigh.
* A visual test to determine the proper doneness can be performed by piercing the turkey with a fork. If the turkey is thoroughly cooked, the juices should run clear. Doneness can also be determined by cutting into the thickest part of the turkey to check that the meat is completely opaque. The drumsticks should move up and down easily.
* If you cook a turkey that comes with a pop-up timer, the cooking process can be almost foolproof. However, if you stuff the turkey, you still need to use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the stuffing to make sure it has reached a minimum temperature of 165°F.
* Leftover stuffing that was originally cooked inside the turkey and has been removed, should be reheated to a minimum temperature of 165°F.
* Stuffing that is placed inside the turkey is often undercooked because many cooks do not allow for the extra cooking time required for a stuffed bird. This increases the chances of food poisoning.
* When cooking turkey pieces such as breasts or thighs, a meat thermometer may not be necessary to determine the proper doneness. Turkey pieces are fully cooked when the meat is no longer pink and the juices run clear.
* The meat near the bones of a turkey (or any poultry) may still look a bit pink even if a meat thermometer indicates that the turkey is fully cooked. This is because younger turkeys have bones that are more porous than older turkeys, which allows red pigment to leach out from the bones to the nearby meat during the cooking process. The turkey is safe to eat as long as the proper internal temperature has been reached and the juices run clear.

Nutritional Tips

* Skinless turkey pieces can be poached in water, wine, and/or broth with herbs and spices added. This will keep the meat moist and add flavor from the poaching liquid. Since no fat is added, the turkey retains its nutritional benefits.
* Steaming is another healthy cooking method and because the turkey is surrounded by steam rather than water, none of the valuable nutrients leach out.
* Stir-frying uses very little oil and cooks bite-size turkey pieces quickly. The vegetables, herbs, spices, and various condiments cooked with the turkey add flavor and provide a healthy, low calorie, low fat dish.
* Grilling is becoming one of the most popular methods of cooking turkey and it is also one of the most healthy. The grilling process allows fat to drip away from the turkey as it cooks, keeping the meat nutritious and flavorful.

Food Safety Tips

Thawing

* When thawing turkey in cold water, make sure the water is very cold and if the original wrapper has any punctures or tears in it, the turkey should be placed in another plastic bag and sealed. The water must be changed every 30 minutes.
* Do not allow turkey to reach room temperature before it is cooked, as this can promote the growth of harmful bacteria. Turkey should be cooked as soon as possible after its removal from refrigeration.
* Raw turkey that has been thawed should never be refrozen because this increases the risk of food poisoning when the meat is finally used.
* Turkey that has been thawed in the microwave must be cooked immediately after thawing. Do not place the turkey back in the refrigerator with the intention of cooking it at a later time. The defrosting process in the microwave may create hot spots on areas of the turkey that will promote the growth of bacteria, which requires that the turkey be cooked immediately.
* A frozen prestuffed turkey should not be thawed before it is cooked because bacteria can rapidly multiply in the stuffing while the turkey is defrosting.

Stuffing

* NEVER stuff the turkey in advance. The stuffing may promote the rapid growth of harmful bacteria. Always cook the turkey immediately after stuffing.
* Stuffing that is placed inside the turkey is often undercooked because many cooks do not allow for the extra cooking time required for a stuffed bird. This increases the chances of food poisoning. Always use a meat thermometer to verify that the temperature of the stuffing has reached a minimum of 165°F.
* Consider cooking the stuffing separate from the turkey. The stuffing can be placed in a baking dish which reduces the risk of bacterial growth in the body cavity of the turkey and also allows the turkey to cook faster.
* All of the stuffing should be removed from the turkey after it is cooked.
* Leftover cooked stuffing should be refrigerated and used within 1 to 2 days and should never be frozen for use at a later date.
* Leftover stuffing that has been cooked inside the turkey should be reheated to a minimum temperature of 165°F.

Cross Contamination

* Various types of foods should be kept separate from each other during storage and preparation. Never store ready to eat foods next to raw meats. Bacteria that may be present on raw turkey may contaminate the ready to eat foods.
* It is very important to wash your hands often during food preparation to avoid transferring harmful bacteria from one food item to the next. If you were handling raw turkey, for example, you would want to wash your hands thoroughly before chopping vegetables to reduce the risk of transferring bacteria from the turkey to the vegetables.
* If cutting boards are used in your kitchen, it is a good idea to use one for meats and a different one for fruits and vegetables. Cutting surfaces made from tempered glass are more sanitary to use than wood boards you don't have to worry about bacteria remaining in cracks and pores as you do with wood or plastic surfaces. They are also the easiest to clean. Regardless of the material they are made from, cutting boards should be thoroughly cleaned after each use.
* Besides using soap and water for cleaning surfaces, bleach or an antibacterial spray may be used to help kill any organisms that the soap and water missed.
* Never use the same knives and utensils for preparing multiple food items unless they are washed thoroughly before using them on a different item. Example: The knife that was used to cut raw turkey should not be used to chop vegetables unless the knife has been thoroughly washed first.
* When serving cooked turkey, do not place it on the plate that contained the raw meat.

Storage Tips

* Placing leftovers in shallow containers in the refrigerator allows leftover cooked food to cool more quickly.
* If you have a large quantity of leftover cooked turkey, it may be best to store some of it in the freezer as soon as possible.
* Leftover turkey should not be frozen after it has been in the refrigerator for several days because it will have deteriorated in quality beyond the point that is safe for long term storage.
* When eating outdoors, food should not be consumed that has been without refrigeration for more than an hour, especially in hot weather.
* In order to reduce the risk of foodborne illness, it is important to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
* Poultry products and all raw meat inspected by the USDA will have information on the label regarding proper handling and storage.