How To Cook Your Turkey Safely To Prevent Getting Sick

Thanksgiving turkeyThe traditional turkey centerpiece on Thanksgiving tables may come out looking scrumptious, but cooks in the kitchen need to be concerned about preparing the bird safely to prevent the spread of foodborne illness.

That’s the advice from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which offers the following safety precautions based on how your turkey will be prepared:

Fresh Turkey

A fresh turkey should be refrigerated until it’s time to cook it. Be sure to place it in a pan that will catch any leaking juices and prevent the spread of potentially harmful bacteria, the agency advises. The USDA also recommends buying a fresh turkey no more than a day or two ahead of time.

Never buy a pre-stuffed fresh turkey, the agency adds. The stuffing in these turkeys may not have been handled properly and may contain harmful germs.

Frozen Turkey

Turkeys can be safely frozen indefinitely but it’s best if used within one year. Do not thaw a frozen turkey until it’s time to cook.

If buying a frozen pre-stuffed turkey, look for a USDA label or state mark of inspection on the packaging. Unlike fresh pre-stuffed turkeys, frozen ones have been prepared under controlled conditions and are safe.

There are three ways to safely thaw a turkey. One option is to let it thaw in the refrigerator.

Keep in mind it takes about 24 hours to thaw a four-to-five pound turkey in the refrigerator. It takes up to three days to thaw a four-to-12 pound turkey, three to five days to thaw a 12-to-20 pound turkey and up to six days to thaw up to 24 pounds of turkey.

Thawing turkeys should be kept in their original wrapper and placed on a pan or tray to catch leaking juices. A thawed turkey should be used within two days. However, if it’s been properly thawed in the refrigerator, it can be refrozen, the USDA says.

A frozen turkey can also be thawed in cold tap water, which takes about 30 minutes per pound on average. Before submerging the turkey, make sure it’s wrapped securely to ensure the water doesn’t leak through.

As the turkey thaws, it’s important to…