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Script: Smoking a Turkey Safely

 

Podcasts
Script: Smoking A Turkey Safely
Intro:
Welcome to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service "Food Safety At Home" podcast series, featuring topics for the safe handling, preparation and storage of meat, poultry and processed egg products. So, sit back, turn up the volume and listen in.

Tina:
I’m Tina and my colleague, Nadine and I are food safety experts for USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline. We will be your hosts for this segment.

As you already know… a turkey in the oven is the traditional way to prepare a turkey for Thanksgiving and through out the year, but today we’ll explore how to safely smoke a turkey. I am Tina and my colleague, Nadine and I are technical information specialists for USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline. We will be your hosts for this segment.

Nadine:
Actually, my brother smoked a turkey for dinner last week. It had a great flavor, and the meat was really tender. We loved it! My brother spent lots of time preparing the turkey for smoking to make sure he was food safe, but it was worth it!

Tina:
It’s true that planning ahead can help prevent foodborne illness. It’s important that the turkey be completely thawed before smoking, and that can take several hours or days depending on the size of the turkey. Because smoking uses low temperatures to cook food, the meat will take too long to thaw in the smoker, allowing it to linger in the “Danger Zone” (the temperatures between 40 and 140 °F) where harmful bacteria can multiply. Thawed meat also cooks more evenly.

Nadine:
Good point Tina! When cooking in a smoker it's also important to place the smoker in an area shielded from winds to maintain a safe, even cooking temperature.

Tina:
Some smokers have built in temperature indicators. If yours doesn’t, place an appliance thermometer on the smoker rack before starting or lighting your heat source.

Nadine:
Charcoal smokers have two pans—one for charcoal and one for liquid. When using a charcoal smoker, fill the pan for liquid with water, apple juice, beer or other flavor-enhancing liquids. Fill the charcoal pan with a good quality charcoal. Light it, and place the cover on the smoker. When the smoker has reached an internal temperature of 225 to 300 °F, quickly place the turkey on the smoker rack and replace the cover.

Tina:
That's an important step: add charcoal every 1 to 2 hours, as necessary, to maintain the 225 to 300 °F temperature. Replenish the liquid as necessary. Heat and liquid are critical to maintaining the hot smoke that cooks the turkey.

Nadine:
How long to cook the turkey depends on many factors: the size and shape of the turkey, the distance from the heat, temperature of the coals, and temperature of the outside air. It can take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours to smoke meat or poultry, so it’s imperative to use a thermometer to monitor temperatures.

Tina:
For the cooking time, estimate about 20 to 30 minutes per pound. Stuffing the turkey is not a good idea. Smoking cooks at a low temperature, so it can take too long for the temperature of the stuffing to reach 165 °F. Also, smoked stuffing just doesn’t taste very good.

Nadine:
And most importantly, remember to always use a food thermometer. The turkey is safely cooked when the food thermometer indicates that a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F has been reached in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

Tina:
You can find all of this information and more, by visiting the FSIS Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov. Or visit us online for assistance from our virtual representative “Ask Karen” at AskKaren.gov.

Nadine:
Thanks for joining us. Now we are going to get our headsets warmed up so we can help answer your questions this holiday season. Consumers may also call our toll-free USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline. That’s 1-888-674-6854.

Tina & Nadine:
Remember, check your steps at FoodSafety.gov.


Outro:
Thanks for listening to this Food Safety At Home podcast. Let us know what you think of this podcast by sending your comments to podcast@fsis.usda.gov.
Last Modified Nov 08, 2013