Turkey Recipes: Safe Cooking 101

Turkey Recipes: Safe Cooking 101Stuffing, leftovers, meat thermometers.   Cooking turkey in accordance with food safety guidelines is simpler than it seems.  Dr. Elizabeth Reames, professor at Luisiana State University’s Nutrition and Health Department, shares valuable tips and information on safe turkey handling procedures.

Suggested Recipes:

Roast Turkey with Corn Bread Stuffing
Roast Turkey with Grand Marnier Apricot Stuffing
Roulade Of Turkey with Foie Gras and Sauterne Sauce

As a nutritionist, what has interested you in safe food preparation techniques? 

The understanding that consumers have a great deal of control over preventing foodborne illnesses through proper cleaning, cooking, chilling and handling of food items in their homes. 

Do you find that most home cooks are well aware of and comply with safe turkey preparation standards?

I think there is increased awareness of safe turkey preparation guidelines.   I respond to many consumer calls and also write news releases, record radio messages and tape TV segments about safe turkey preparation.  The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline is a great resource for consumers.

What is generally considered safer – frozen turkey purchased ahead of time and stored in the freezer, or fresh turkey purchased a day or two prior to cooking?

As long as recommended food safety guidelines for refrigerating, thawing, cooking, etc. are followed, both should be safe.

There is a variety of meat thermometers available for purchase.  Is there a specific brand or type that you find most useful for turkey preparation?  How should a meat thermometer be used?

I'm accustomed to using the bimetallic "instant read" thermometer and continue to use it.  I recommend one that can be calibrated.  The thermometer should be checked regularly to make sure temperature readings are accurate.

A food thermometer is the only way to make sure that turkey has reached a high enough temperature to destroy harmful bacteria.  To make sure a whole turkey has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °, use a food thermometer to check the innermost part of the thigh and wing and thickest part of the breast.  For turkey breasts, check the thickest part of the breast. If using an oven cooking bag, follow the manufacturer's guidelines on the package. A turkey will cook faster in an oven bag with less cleanup afterwards. A thermometer can be inserted through a hole in the oven bag so you can tell when your turkey is safely done. 

I use an "instant read" bimetallic-coil thermometer. Even though named "instant read," these thermometers need to remain inserted in the food for about 15 seconds.  For helpful information on types of food thermometers, I recommend the SDA ThermyTM website.

How safe are pre-stuffed turkeys?

We follow USDA guidelines, which recommend NOT buying fresh pre-stuffed turkeys.

Is it safe to reuse leftover turkey in a new recipe?
If leftover turkey has been properly handled and refrigerated promptly after serving, the turkey should be safe to use in other dishes.

What is involved in proper handling?

USDA FSIS recommends the following:  Cut the turkey into small pieces; refrigerate stuffing and turkey separately in shallow containers within 2 hours of cooking. Use leftover turkey and stuffing within 3-4 days or freeze these foods.

Turkey may be eaten cold or hot. Reheating leftovers such as turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy or a cooked vegetable casserole to 165 degrees F is recommended.

What is the most common mistake that home cooks make in preparing holiday turkey?

Underestimating the thawing time of frozen turkey.

Suggested Recipes:

Turkey with Fruit Stuffing
Turkey Stew with Dumplings
Leftover Turkey Or Chicken Hash
Curried Sauce For Turkey Or Chicken
Chicken And Turkey Sausage Gumbo 

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