USDA Offers Tips on Safe And Easy Thanksgiving Cooking
| Susan Conley (301) 504-9605
Steven Cohen (202) 720-9113
WASHINGTON, November 8, 2004 - The U.S. Department
of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has an
array of information available to help consumers prepare a safe, easy
and delicious Thanksgiving Day meal.
New this year is "Let's
Talk Turkey, A Consumer Guide to Safely Roasting a Turkey."
Every facet of getting a turkey from the grocery store to the dinner
table is included – buying fresh vs. frozen, safe thawing methods,
stuffing, roasting and even storing and reheating leftovers. The brochure
and other information related to turkey preparation can be printed
from the FSIS Web site at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov.
Hard copies of this guide are available at no charge and can be ordered
by sending e-mail to email@example.com.
Other publications available on the FSIS Web site can answer a myriad
of Thanksgiving-related food safety questions. Here are some frequently-asked
questions from fact sheets that can be found by clicking on "Fact
Sheets" on the FSIS site. You can select either "Poultry
Preparation" or "Seasonal
"We had a big family argument at Thanksgiving dinner.
Aunt Mildred wouldn't eat the turkey because the cooked meat looked
pink. Is pink turkey meat safe?"
The color of cooked meat and poultry is not always a sure sign of
its degree of doneness. Only by using a food thermometer can one accurately
determine that meat has reached a safe temperature. Turkey, fresh
pork, ground beef or veal can remain pink even after cooking to temperatures
of 160 °F and higher. The meat of smoked turkey is always pink.
"What is brining and what are its benefits?"
The verb "brine" means to treat with or steep in brine.
Brine is a strong solution of water and salt. The salt has two effects
on poultry, reports Dr. Alan Sams, a professor of poultry science
at Texas A & M University. "It dissolves protein in muscle and
the salt and protein reduce moisture loss during cooking. This makes
the meat juicer, more tender and improves the flavor. The low levels
of salt enhance the other natural flavors of poultry." For best
results, submerge poultry in solution and store covered in refrigerator,
at least overnight. Discard brine after use. Cook turkey within 2
"Is it safe to deep fry a turkey?"
A whole turkey can be successfully cooked by the deep fat frying method
if the turkey has been completely thawed and is not stuffed. For additional
information on deep fat frying as well as cooking turkey in an electric
roaster, grilling, smoking, cooking it frozen, microwaving and pressure
cooking, visit the Web site and read "Turkey:
Alternative Routes to the Table."
"I just discovered I cooked the turkey with the
package of giblets still inside the cavity. Are the turkey and giblets
safe to eat?"
If giblets were left in the cavity during roasting, even though this
is not recommended, the turkey and giblets are probably safe to use.
However, if the packaging material containing the giblets has changed
shape or melted in any way during cooking, do not use the
giblets or the turkey because harmful chemicals from the packaging
may have penetrated the surrounding meat.
"How can I be sure a stuffed turkey is safely cooked?"
For safety and uniform doneness of the turkey, cook stuffing separately
in a casserole. You must use a food thermometer to check that the
internal temperature of the stuffing has reached 165 °F. If you
choose to stuff a turkey, mix the ingredients just before loosely
stuffing the bird. The temperature of a whole turkey must reach 180
°F in the innermost part of the thigh and the center
of the stuffing must reach 165 °F. If the stuffing has not reached
165 °F, continue cooking the turkey until the stuffing reaches
165 °F. Remember to set your oven temperature no lower than 325
"What do I do with hot take out food? I am picking
up a hot, cooked turkey dinner at a restaurant."
If you eat within two hours, handle the hot food as follows: Pick
up the food HOT...and keep it HOT. Keeping foods warm is not enough.
Harmful bacteria multiply fastest between 40° and 140 °F.
Set the oven temperature high enough to keep the internal temperature
of the turkey and all side dishes at 140 °F or above. Use a food
thermometer to check food temperatures. Covering the food will help
keep it moist.
If you're not eating within 2 hours, remove all stuffing from the
turkey cavity and refrigerate in shallow containers. Reheating a whole
turkey is not recommended. Cut turkey into smaller pieces and refrigerate.
Slice breast meat; legs and wings may be left whole. Refrigerate potatoes,
gravy, and vegetables in shallow containers. Reheat turkey pieces
and all side dishes thoroughly to 165 °F, until hot and steaming.
Bring gravy to a rolling boil. If using a microwave oven then cover
food and rotate dish so it heats evenly. Follow the microwave oven
USDA makes it easy to obtain food safety information 24/7 via phone
or on the Internet. Cooks who prefer the personal touch can speak
to a food safety specialist (English or Spanish) or hear food safety
messages by calling the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline toll-free 1-888-MPHotline
(1-888-674-6854) or TTY: 1-800-256-7072. Or, they can receive a personal
answer electronically by e-mailing a question to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publications can be printed from the FSIS Web site http://www.fsis.usda.gov.
Also on the FSIS Web site, worldwide users can get an instant answer
24/7 by typing a question to "Ask
Karen." Karen is a Web-based, automated response system that answers
typed questions about the safe handling, preparation and storage of
meat, poultry and egg products. Users also can type a category and
view a list of questions from an extensive database of food safety
Safety Questions? Ask Karen!
A Web-based, automated response system, available 24/7-nationally
and internationally, that responds to inquiries from the public
about the safe handling, preparation and storage of meat, poultry,
and egg products from an extensive database of food safety information.
March 28, 2006
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