Turkey – Food Safety Mistakes

Educators Cry ‘Fowl’ over Holiday Food Safety Mistakes

Timetable for Turkey Roasting Handout 2012

When you think “Thanksgiving”, what comes to mind? Turkey! According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), more than 45 million turkeys are cooked and eaten in the United States at Thanksgiving alone. That number represents one-sixth of all the turkeys sold in the U.S. each year. With that many turkeys there’s bound to be a few fiascoes during the holidays.

“Thawing is generally considered the number one problem with safely preparing the holiday bird,” according to Barbara Ingham, extension food scientist with the University of Wisconsin-Extension. When thawing the turkey in the refrigerator, the USDA recommends allowing 24 hours for every four to five pounds of meat. For example, a 16 to 20-pounds turkey would need at least three or four days to thaw. Some newer, more efficient refrigerators can add a day or two to that time. Turkeys can also be thawed in the microwave, or in a sink filled with cold water-just change the water every 30 minutes. It’s also possible to cook a turkey directly from the froze state, adds Ingham.

And if you’d like to use a pre-stuffed turkey for your meal, look for a frozen, pre-stuffed bird that displays the USDA or State mark of inspection on the packaging. Do not thaw pre-stuffed turkeys before cooking, either-they should go straight from freezer to oven.

In addition to the challenge of thawing a turkey, consumers struggle with other questions such as knowing when a turkey is sufficiently cooked and how to handle leftovers. The Shawano County UW-Extension office is available to help answer your holiday meal preparation questions, and the USDA and several food companies have special hotlines in November and December to answer last-minute questions.

These hotlines receive many unusual questions during the holiday season, including things like:

Q. “I Just discovered I cooked the turkey with the package of giblets still inside the cavity, are the turkey and giblets safe to eat?”

A. 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 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.

From questions on thawing a turkey to dealing with leftovers, these national hotlines have heard it all and are ready to help ease the stress of holiday meal planning and preparation. The University of Wisconsin-Extension has food safety information available at your fingertips 24/7 at www.foodsafety.wisc.edu. For topics on preparing and serving your holiday meal, see T-turkey and Thanksgiving in the A-Z index.

USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline:
1-800-535-4555 or 1-888-674-6854 or e-mail: mphotline.fsis.@usda.gov
(click on “Let’s Talk Turkey”)
9 am – 3 pm weekdays (year round)
7 am to 1 pm Thanksgiving Day

Butterball Turkey Talk-Line: 1-800-288-8372, e-mail: BBTurkeyCo@aol.com or website: http://www.butterball.com for tips, recipes and FAQs year round. It is open to residents of the United States and Canada. Bilingual assistance is available (English and Spanish). Over the years, the Butterball® Turkey Talk-Line experts have solved some puzzling turkey situations, like which pan to use, what to do when the turkey is on fire, and when to start roasting the turkey so it’s ready by halftime.

Turkey Talk-Line Facts

  • When the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line opened twenty-nine years ago, six home economists responded to 11,000 phone calls in the first year alone.
  • These days, the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line employs more than 50 professionally trained, college-educated home economists and nutritionists, who respond to more than 100,000 questions each November and December. They’ve answered calls regarding how to cook for a whole firehouse, how to impress the in-laws, and how to serve international students their first American Thanksgiving dinner.

Jennie-O Turkey Hotline:
1-800-887-5397 or www.jennieoturkeystore.com for recipes, tips and FAQs
24 hours daily through December

Reynolds Turkey Tips Hotline:
1-800-745-4000 (recorded messages on thawing and preparing turkey) or www.reynoldskitchens.com
24 hours during the holidays

If you have any questions regarding Family Living in Shawano County, please contact:

Kara Skarlupka Kara Skarlupka, Office Assistant
UW-Extension Shawano County
Shawano County Courthouse
311 North Main Street, Room 101
Shawano, WI 54166
Phone: 715-526-6136 * Fax: 715-526-4875
Email: kara.skarlupka@co.shawano.wi.us


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