Preparing Thanksgiving dinner is a lot of work, and as the big day approaches it can be tempting to cut corners. One area where you should never do things in half-measures is food safety. The last thing anybody wants to deal with during Thanksgiving aftermath is food poisoning! When preparing a turkey, be aware of food safety issues: thawing, stuffing and cooking to adequate temperature.
THAWING: The preferred method is to thaw your turkey in the refrigerator. Place the turkey in a container to prevent juices from dripping on other foods. Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at 40° F or below. To thaw in cold water, seal the turkey in a watertight bag and submerge in cold water. Allow 30 minutes of submersion per pound of turkey and change the water every 30 minutes.
After preparing the turkey, thoroughly wash your hands and disinfect utensils or surfaces to avoid bacteria from the turkey spreading to other foods.
STUFFING: For optimal safety and uniform doneness, cook the stuffing outside the turkey in a casserole dish. If you place stuffing inside the turkey, do so just before cooking, and use a food thermometer. Make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165° F.
COOKING: Be sure the turkey is completely thawed, and set the oven to a minimum temperature of 325° F. Place the turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep. Use a food thermometer to ensure the stuffing, breast, thigh and wing joint reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165° F. Cooking times will vary by size and oven. When finished, let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat.