Courtesy of American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON (NWSB) -- Many will travel to spend the holiday season with family and friends. Others will remain home to entertain guests and hold private family celebrations. Whichever way you celebrate, make sure you properly prepare the food you serve.
The Agriculture Department provides tips that not only help keep the dinner safe and edible, but also help make the turkey dinners browned and succulent, instead of underdone or overdone.
Poultry experts caution cooks to wash everything -- hands, utensils and kitchen counters and sink after contact with raw poultry. Washing with hot, soapy water will help prevent the spread of bacteria.
If you buy fresh turkey, refrigerate it at 40 degrees Fahrenheit for no more than one or two days before cooking. A frozen bird should stay in the freezer at 0 degrees until it is time to cook it. Cook the turkey as soon as it's thawed, officials said.
Thawing a frozen bird in the refrigerator can take one to five days depending on size. Thawing in cold water can take four to 12 hours. Microwave oven instruction manuals provide thawing time and power information.
After thawing the bird, remove the neck and giblet package from inside and wash the bird inside and out with cold water. Allow it to drain well.
Stuff the turkey loosely just before cooking, allowing three-quarters of a cup per pound. Dry ingredients can be prepared ahead, but add wet ones (onions, celery and especially oysters, if you use them) immediately before cooking. Remove stuffing immediately after cooking, or cook stuffing separately in an oven-proof container or aluminum foil for extra food safety.
The turkey's inside temperature should reach 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Directions for cooking times and temperatures are available in basic cookbooks or on the bird's wrapper.
Roasting times vary, depending on size and whether the bird is stuffed. Stuffed birds take longer to cook. For example, a 16 pound turkey takes 3.5 to 4.5 hours unstuffed or 4.5 to 5.5 hours stuffed.
Refrigerate leftover turkey within two hours after cooking. The best way to store is to divide into small containers. Turkey stored in the refrigerator will keep three or four days, but stuffing will keep for only two days.
The Department of Agriculture has a toll-free, year-round meat and poultry hotline -- (800) 535-4555 or (202) 720-3333 in the Washington, D.C., area. The hotline is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Eastern time. On Thanksgiving day, Nov. 28, the hotline is open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and food safety experts will answer questions live.
People with touch-tone phones can access recorded answers to the most commonly asked questions by calling the hotline anytime. The hotline includes information on what to do following a power outage and updates on E. Coli bacteria outbreaks.
Navy News Wire "B" story NWSB371, dated November 4, 1996.
Return to Military Food Service