In this era of antibiotic resistance and foodborne illness, getting Thanksgiving right means more than just deciding who to invite for dinner. These days, it means proper preparation and cooking of the turkey to prevent food poisoning. The good news is that it can be easily accomplished; but first, some background.
Outbreaks of food poisoning occur most often in November and December. Meat and poultry account for 92% of outbreaks with an identified single food source – and turkey has become one of the usual suspects.
For example, just last month a report came out that found MRSA in 3 out of 10 turkey farms: and 5 of 11 farmers on those 10 farms were MRSA-positive, as well as 2 of 32 family members, and 15 of 49 samples from the home residences. Worse still, is a report by CBS that dangerous bacteria were found on 90% of ground turkey.
Now for the good news: proper preparation and cooking of our Thanksgiving turkey will virtually eliminate problems with these pesky pathogens; so says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who recommend this 4-step plan:
- Thawing the turkey. No, not on the counter silly! Because when the turkey is left out at room temperature for more than two hours, its temperature can creep into the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F, where bacteria can grow rapidly. Ergo, thaw thy turkey in the fridge!
- Handling the turkey. Thoroughly wash your hands, utensils, and work surfaces to prevent the spread of bacteria to your food and family. Okay, that’s easy.
- Stuffing the turkey. Do it just before Use a food thermometer to make sure the stuffing’s center reaches 165°F. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165°F, and possibly cause food poisoning. So, remember 165°F because it will come up again!
- And finally – Cooking the turkey. Set the oven temperature to at least 325°. To make sure the turkey has reached a safe internal temperature of 165°F, check by using a food thermometer inserted into the center of the stuffing and the thickest portions of the breast, thigh, and wing joint.
Of course, the CDC aren’t the only ones to consult for our Thanksgiving dinner. This one seems particularly yummy: