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Talkin' Turkey – Safe Eats

November 19, 2008

Whether you’re an expert chef or a first cook trying to figure out which way the turkey goes in the pan, UNH Cooperative Extension can answer your turkey and holiday meal preparation questions.
Our toll-free info line is staffed by trained volunteers who give practical information on how to thaw, roast and store your Thanksgiving turkey.
Call 1-877-398-4769, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Wednesday, 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Cooperative Extension’s Top Turkey Tips

  • Buy a quick-read, food thermometer, if you don’t have one already. You can purchase one in the grocery store when you’re shopping for your holiday meal ingredients.
  • Allow one pound of turkey per person.
  • Buy fresh turkey one to two days before you plan to cook it. Store it in the refrigerator at 40 F. or below until cooking. Place it on a tray to catch any meat juices that might leak.
  • Thaw your frozen turkey in the refrigerator (40 F. or below). Allow approximately 24 hours for every four to five pounds. A 16- to 20-pound turkey takes four to five days to defrost, so plan ahead. Place it on a tray to catch any meat juices that might leak.
  • Wash hands, utensils, the sink, and anything else that comes in contact with raw turkey and its juices with soap and water. Keep everything clean to prevent cross contamination and the spread of harmful foodborne bacteria.
  • Set your oven temperature no lower than 325 F. Roasting turkey at a temperature lower than 325 F. can make the turkey unsafe to eat.
  • Cook your stuffing outside the turkey in a casserole for optimum safety. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the stuffing. The stuffing must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 F.
  • Cook your turkey to a minimum internal temperature of 165 F. An 18- to 20-pound turkey will take approximately 4 1/4 to 4/1/2 hours to cook.
  • Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
  • Remember the two-hour rule. Discard any turkey, stuffing and gravy left out at room temperature longer than two hours.
  • Divide leftovers into smaller portions and store in small shallow containers. Cover containers, label, date and refrigerate or freeze.
  • 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.
  • Reheat turkey and leftovers to an internal temperature of 165 F. To keep the turkey moist, add a little broth or water and cover.

For more turkey tips, check out these web sites:

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