Thanksgiving is a holiday that is celebrated every year in the United States and Canada, in which families gather around a big turkey on the fourth Thursday of November, which this year falls on October 27.
Knowing how to prepare this bird for Thanksgiving dinner is not only important to make it delicious, but also to avoid dangerous diseases associated with food contamination. Take these indications into account.
Fresh or frozen turkey? It’s a matter of preference, but if you’re going to choose a fresh one, you should cook it a day or two after buying it, explains Janiv López-Muñoz, official of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA), to Univision Noticias. The frozen can be purchased weeks in advance.
To thaw the turkey it is best to leave it in the fridge for 24 hours for every 4 or 5 pounds of weight. A turkey of 4 to 12 pounds will take from 1 to 3 days with this technique. Another option is to use the microwave or soak the bird in cold water (about 30 minutes for each pound of weight). Lopez-Muñoz clarifies that in these last two cases you can not refreeze without first cooking it.
While thawing the turkey, always move it away from any other food and avoid the juices spilling on other things.
When handling the raw turkey, use cutting boards, plates and utensils to avoid contaminating other foods. Wash items that were in contact with raw meat with hot water and soap.
Remember to wash your hands several times during the day with warm water and soap, for at least 20 seconds, before handling any food. This way you can prevent the spread of many types of infections and diseases.
The most recommended is not to wash the turkey. This just spreads the bacteria on the kitchen surfaces. The only way to fight the microbes that can cause diseases is by cooking the bird.
For maximum safety it is best to cook the stuffing and the turkey separately. Use a food thermometer to make sure that the center of the filling reaches an adequate internal minimum temperature of 165° F, which is necessary to eliminate bacteria and prevent disease.
Insert the thermometer in three different parts of the bird: the thickest part of the breast, the inner part of the thigh and under the wing. A breast of 4 to 6 pounds, without filling, can take up to two and a quarter hours to cook in the oven. In this link you will see government recommendations for various types of cooking.
After the celebration, if you’re going to refrigerate the leftovers, do not take too long to do it. It is best not to wait more than two hours and use shallow trays or containers to reduce cooling time. Do not leave the stuffing inside the turkey. Take it out and refrigerate it on its own, separated from the meat.