Let’s Talk Turkey

With Christmas fast approaching, many of us will now be thinking about buying our turkeys, be they fresh or frozen.  We thought we would give a few pointers about how to store, cook and keep your turkey to ensure you have a happy and healthy Christmas.

Poultry can often carry bacteria such as Campylobacter, Salmonella and Clostridium Perfringens.   If allowed to multiply, this could lead to you suffering some unpleasant symptoms.  By following these basic rules, you can help prevent any unwanted outbreaks of food poisoning.

Buying

When buying your turkey, make sure that there are no juices escaping which could come into contact with other food (cross contamination).  Wrap it in an extra bag if necessary.  Get it home and in the fridge (or freezer) as soon as you can.  Remember to store it on the bottom shelf of the fridge so if any juices do escape, they will not drip onto other food.

Wash your hands after handling.

Preparation

Never defrost a frozen turkey at room temperature as the ambient temperature will cause bacteria to grow.  Defrost it in the fridge and allow enough time to do so depending on the size of your turkey.  If you do need to speed up the process, your turkey can be placed in a bowl of cold water which should be changed frequently.

Always thoroughly defrost your turkey as ice crystals will cause the turkey to cook unevenly and may result in parts being undercooked.

Never wash your turkey as this can cause bacteria to splash around your kitchen, contaminating work surfaces and utensils.

Ensure that any utensils or cutting boards that have come into contact with the turkey are thoroughly washed so there is no danger of cross contamination.

Have the giblets been removed from inside the cavity?  Don’t forget to check.

If you are going to stuff the turkey, allow time for the extra weight.  Ideally, stuffing should be cooked separately.

Wash your hands after handling.

Cooking

Heat the oven to at least 180°C (350°F, Gas Mark 4).

Never cook your turkey in instalments!  It needs to achieve a heat of at least 75°C in order to kill harmful bacteria. 

Pierce your turkey in several places, including the thigh.  Juices should run clear and there should not be any pink meat.

Avoid any cross contamination and remember to keep hands and worktops clean and wiped down.

Cooling/Storing

Cool your turkey quickly.  This can be done by cutting it into smaller sections. It should be in the fridge within 2 hours as the ambient temperature of your kitchen is ideal for breeding harmful bacteria.

Enjoy your cooked leftovers for up to 3 days, but always remember to minimalise its time out of the fridge.

If you are planning to freeze your turkey, it is always a good idea to divide it into portions, wrap in freezer bags and place in the freezer as soon as it is cold.  Do not freeze the turkey whilst it is still warm as this will raise the temperature of the freezer to unhealthy levels.

Don’t forget to look at our section on training if you feel you would like to have a more in depth understanding of Food Safety.  We have training courses to suit all levels.  Alternatively, give us a call or send us an email for more information.