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COLUMN: Check that turkey's temperature

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By Theresa Howard

There are three ways to thaw your turkey safely — in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave oven. Keep the turkey in its original wrapper. Place it on a tray or in a pan to catch any juices that may leak.

For thawing in the refrigerator, allow about 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. If necessary, a turkey that has been properly thawed in the refrigerator may be refrozen.

For thawing in cold water, allow about 30 minutes per pound. Wrap your turkey securely, making sure the water is not able to leak through the wrapping. Submerge your wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze.

For microwave thawing, check your owner’s manual for size of turkey that will fit your microwave oven, the minutes per pound and power level. Remove all outside wrapping, cook your turkey immediately. Do not refreeze turkey after thawing in the microwave oven.

How long you can store a frozen turkey and it still be safe to eat? Basically if a turkey has been constantly stored in a freezer below 30 degrees F, it is safe to eat but the quality of your turkey will decrease over time, so it’s best to consume within one year of purchase.

After your turkey is thawed and ready to cook, always remember to check the cavities for any packaged turkey giblets. Remove and cook these separately if desired. You don’t want the package coverings melting into your turkey.

For roasting your turkey, set oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees F. A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

For more info you can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at: 1-888-674-6854 or send Email to: mphotline.fsis@usda.gov.