Cooking Safely on Thanksgiving

  • Clostridium perfringens

    Clostridium perfringens

    Foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly between 40 and 140 °F. Although frozen turkey is safe indefinitely, any bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow again as soon as it begins to thaw. There are three safe ways to thaw food: the refrigerator, cold water and a microwave oven.

  • When thawing a turkey in the refrigerator plan ahead. Allow approximately 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at 40 °F or below. The turkey should be placed on a container to prevent the juices from dripping on other foods. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before cooking.

  • For cold water thawing allow about 30 minutes per pound of turkey. Be sure the turkey is in a leak-proof plastic bag to prevent cross-contamination and to prevent the turkey from absorbing water, before submerging it in water. Change the water every 30 minutes and cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.

  • For defrosting a turkey in the microwave, follow the microwave oven manufacturer's instruction. Plan to cook the turkey immediately after using this method of thawing, as some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving. Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present would not have been destroyed.

  • Stuffing should not be prepared ahead. The dry and wet ingredients for stuffing can be prepared ahead of time and chilled. However, do not mix wet and dry ingredients until just before spooning the stuffing mixture into a poultry cavity, in/on other meat, or into a casserole. For optimal safety and uniform doneness, the CDC recommends cooking the stuffing outside of the turkey in a casserole dish.

  • If stuffing a whole turkey, chicken or other bird, spoon the stuffing in loosely just before cooking - about 3/4 cup of stuffing per pound. The stuffing should be moist, not dry, because heat destroys bacteria more rapidly in a moist environment. Using a food thermometer, make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F.

  • To safely cook a whole turkey, set the oven temperature no lower than 325°F and be sure the turkey is completely thawed. Place turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2.5 inches deep.

  • Check the internal temperature at the center of the stuffing and meaty portion of the breast, thigh and wing joint using a food thermometer. Cooking times will vary. The food thermometer must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat.

  • Refrigerate leftovers at 40°F or below as soon as possible and within two hours of preparation to prevent food poisoning

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Did you know outbreaks of one of the most common cause of bacterial food poisoning, Clostridium perfringens, coincide with the holidays? Cases of C. perfringens occur most frequently in November and December. Recommend these food safety tips from the CDC to assure your patients enjoy their holidays without incident.

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