How not to make a poisonous turkey

In today’s Connecticut Post, I have a story about a potentially hazardous chemical used in some canned goods, including some used in some popular Thanksgiving dishes. Though there’s controversy about how dangerous this chemical is, everyone knows the importance of practicing good food safety while making your Thanksgiving supper.

But, just in case you’re not sure of the proper temperature at which to cook your turkey, the Connecticut Department of Public Health has put out some helpful Thanksgiving tips. To wit:

Wash hands – Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water and dry your hands with a
paper towel following restroom use, before preparing foods, after handling raw meat and
before eating. Clean hands will help prevent the spread of potentially illness-causing

Clean – Wash and sanitize food-contact surfaces often. Many home dishwashers now come
with a sanitizing cycle option. If not, you can sanitize by immersing utensils, cutting boards,
and other items that come in contact with food for at least one minute in a clean solution
containing at least 50 parts per million of chlorine (one teaspoon of 5.25 percent household
bleach per gallon of water). Bacteria can spread and get onto cutting boards, knives and
counter tops. Wash fruits and vegetables with water before preparing.

Thaw properly – Proper methods for thawing a turkey include: thawing in a refrigerator with
a temperature of 41 degrees F or less (allow 3-4 days for thawing); placing under cool running water
at a temperature of 75 degrees F or less; or thawing in a microwave and cooking the turkey

Take temperatures
– Cook your turkey at 325 degrees F until its internal temperature reaches at least 165 degrees F. Cooked, hot foods should be kept at 140 degrees F or warmer. Be sure to use a food
thermometer to check temperatures. When cooking a stuffed turkey, be sure that the turkey,
as well as the stuffing inside of it, reaches at least 165 degrees F. Even if the turkey itself reaches
165 degrees F, the stuffing inside may take longer to reach 165 degrees F, the temperature safe enough to
kill any bacteria that may be present.

Stuffing – Prepare your stuffing and turkey just before cooking. Using a cold stuffing may
make it more difficult to reach the safe temperature of 165 degrees F. Stuff the turkey loosely and use
¾ of a cup of stuffing per pound of turkey. Use a moist stuffing rather than a dry stuffing
because heat destroys bacteria better in a moist environment. For a safer approach, cook
stuffing separately.

Keep it cold
– Cold foods should be kept at 41 degrees F or less. After the turkey is served,
immediately slice and refrigerate on shallow platters. Store leftover food in shallow
containers and refrigerate promptly. Use refrigerated turkey and stuffing within three to four
days. Use gravy within one to two days. If freezing leftovers, use within two to six months
for best quality.

Transport safely – Keep hot foods hot (140 degrees F or above) and cold foods cold (41 degrees F or less).

Reheat – Leftover turkey and stuffing should be stored separately in shallow dishes or
platters. Rapidly reheat leftovers to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Don’t cross contaminate – Put the turkey directly into the roasting pan as you remove it from
the wrapper to avoid contaminating the sink and other surfaces with bacteria that are often
present on poultry. Don’t touch other foods with hands or utensils that have been used on
raw poultry without properly washing your hands first. Washing your hands, wearing
disposable gloves, and changing them after handling raw foods is the safest way to prevent
cross contamination.

Don’t cook if you’re ill
– Don’t prepare foods if you are experiencing symptoms of vomiting
or diarrhea or if you recently had such symptoms. Many foodborne illnesses are transmitted
unknowingly by a food preparer who had these symptoms – even if they washed their hands!

If you are ill, let someone else do the cooking and provide a safe and enjoyable dinner for
your family and friends.
For more information and free literature about food safety, contact the Food Protection Program
at 860-509-7297.

Amanda Cuda