Tips to safely prepare a turkey dinner - WNEM TV 5

Tips to safely prepare a turkey dinner

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The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is offering tips to prepare a safe and delicious holiday meal.

The following recommendations are from MDARD. 

Purchase your turkey early, allowing time for it to thaw.  Poultry should be thawed in the refrigerator in its original wrapper.  Place a tray underneath the turkey to catch any juices that may leak from the package which would then cross-contaminate already cooked foods.  Allow 24 hours of thawing time for every four to five pounds of frozen turkey; keep in mind that fresh or fully thawed poultry should be kept in the refrigerator for no more than two days before cooking.

If you've forgotten to thaw your turkey or are unable to purchase one until the last minute, you can use the cold water method to thaw it.  Submerge your turkey in a container with enough cold water to cover the bird, changing the water every 30 minutes. Calculate 30 minutes per pound for thawing time.  As a last resort, you can cook a frozen turkey, but it will require 50 percent additional cooking time and should not be filled with stuffing.

Place your uncooked turkey in an oven preheated to 325°F or higher.

"Using a food thermometer and checking the temperature in several areas of the bird is the best way to ensure your turkey has reached a minimum internal temperature of 165°F," said Kevin Besey, MDARD Food and Dairy Division Director.  "The thermometer should be placed in the innermost part of the thigh and wing, the thickest part of the breast, and inside the stuffing." 

Additionally, food safety precautions should be taken when preparing the stuffing for your meal.  Prepare stuffing just before cooking, no matter what variation your family prefers.  Both dry and wet ingredients can be prepared separately ahead of time and chilled, but do not mix until cooking time.  Prepare a stuffing that includes some moisture, because heat can destroy bacteria more rapidly in a moist environment than in a dry stuffing.

Baking stuffing outside the turkey is the safest method and the mixture can be prepared in advance as long as it is frozen or baked immediately. Do not stuff poultry with frozen or pre-cooked stuffing.

Remember to quickly chill food after dinner is served to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.  For additional holiday food safety tips, visit

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