Thanksgiving is more than just a holiday; it’s a special opportunity to spend time with one another and share laughs, old stories and a classic American meal. This Thanksgiving, the Ad Council, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, FDA and CDC, as part of their Food Safe Families campaign, want to ensure that your Thanksgiving meal is both enjoyable and prepared safely.
There are so many commonly held practices when it comes to cooking the big bird that are actually harmful and can cause food poisoning (not how anyone wants to spend their holiday!). Below are the top 5 Turkey Myths that most Americans believe are safe practices. Follow the Facts below the Myths for a safe, healthy and happy Thanksgiving with your families and friends!
Myth: Stuffing turkey the night before is a good time saver
Fact: Harmful bacteria can multiply in the stuffing and cause food poisoning when a stuffed bird is refrigerated. The ingredients for the stuffing, wet and dry, can be prepared and refrigerated separately the night before. Then mix the stuffing ingredients together and stuff the bird just before you put the turkey into the oven. For safety, check the internal temperature of the turkey in the innermost part of the thigh and wing, the thickest part of the breast and the stuffing. All should be 165 °F.
Myth: If one turkey takes 3 hours to cook, two will take 6 hours.
Fact: Cooking two turkeys of approximately the same weight, at the same time in a conventional oven does not double the roasting time. In fact, cooking two takes no longer than if there were only one bird in the oven. Just make sure there is sufficient space in the oven for two turkeys so the heat can circulate properly and check each one separately with a food thermometer to make sure they are safely cooked. A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. The temperature should be checked in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
Myth: Thawing on the counter is quick and easy.
Fact: Thawing on the counter may be faster than thawing in the refrigerator, but it’s unsafe for turkey or any meat or poultry product. There are three safe ways to thaw a turkey— in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave oven. It will take 24 hours for every 5 pounds of weight to thaw in the refrigerator. To thaw in cold water, submerge the bird in its original wrapper in cold water changing the water every 30 minutes. It will take about 30 minutes per pound to thaw this way. Microwave thawing is the third safe option. Make sure the oven is large enough for the bird and follow the microwave instruction manual. Cook the bird immediately if thawed in a microwave or in cold water.
When there is not enough time to thaw frozen foods, or you’re simply in a hurry, it is safe to cook a turkey from the frozen state. The cooking will take approximately 50% longer than the recommended time for fully thawed or fresh turkey. Make sure that the turkey reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer in three places: in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
Myth: Smoked turkey lasts longer.
Fact: Turkeys are smoked for flavor, not to extend the time you can keep them refrigerated. Store a commercially smoked turkey in the refrigerator, unopened, no longer than a week. Once the package is opened, use or freeze the bird within 3 to 4 days.
Myth: A turkey is done when it is golden brown and the juices run clear.
Fact: Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness or safety. A whole turkey is safely cooked when it reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. The temperature should be checked in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
For information and tips on preparing the Thanksgiving meal safely, consumers are encouraged to visit FoodSafety.gov or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline, open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Families can also access “Ask Karen,” an online database of answers to specific questions related to preventing food borne illnesses available 24/7.