Thanksgiving is known for its most famous entrée: the turkey. But this big boy can be a complicated bird to cook and, if not handled correctly, a bacteria-producing factory, so practicing properly poultry preparation techniques is a must. You want to make sure that you are thawing, preparing, stuffing, and cooking your turkey correctly by following the CDC guidelines. The tips below will help you keep foodborne illness off of your holiday menu. 

Turkey-Handling Safety Tips

  1. When you buy your turkey, it’s best to go straight home and put it in the freezer. Don’t leave your turkey in the car while you finish up your to-do list. Especially here in Florida, your turkey will begin to thaw and cause bacteria to form, potentially resulting in foodborne illness. (Tweet This Tip)
  2. Make sure to thaw the turkey correctly, because – you guessed it – bacteria can spread easily, and quickly, during the defrosting process. Thaw your turkey in your refrigerator, and make sure to allocate enough time: it can take a whole day for every four pounds your turkey weighs. It’s not safe to have the turkey out on the counter thawing because this can cause foodborne bacteria to start to grow. First-time Thanksgiving hosts learn this the hard way.
  3. WASH YOUR HANDS! This is a step you need to take before and after you’ve handled that raw birdy to avoid transferring bacteria to anything else you touch. It’s also important to wash utensils, as well as kitchen counters and work surfaces that you’ve used to handle your turkey to prevent cross-contamination. (Tweet This Tip)
  4. Some traditional recipes suggest that you let the stuffing cook inside the turkey while it’s in the oven, but that might not be the safest way to cook stuffing. If you choose to do so, make sure to check the temperature inside of the turkey: it needs to reach temperature of 165˚F in the center of the stuffing to prevent bacteria from growing. To be on the safe side, experts recommend cooking the stuffing outside the turkey in a separate baking dish or casserole dish to reduce the risk of food poisoning. 
  5. If you’re cooking your bird in the oven, make sure the temperature is set to at least 325˚F. You want to use a shallow roasting pan that’s at least 2 ½ inches deep or possibly more, depending on how big your turkey is. Check the turkey’s temperature frequently, making sure to test the center of its breast, thigh and wing area. 

Fried Turkey Safety Tips

Deep frying a turkey can be a very delicious – but dangerous – way of cooking a turkey. Consider the following tips to keep your holiday from going up in flames:

  1. If you’re deep frying your turkey, set up the fryer at least 10 feet away from your home. You also want to keep kids and pets away from this area, and have an adult supervising the turkey at all times. (Tweet This Tip)
  2. Keep the fryer on a flat surface or ground. You want to make sure the oil is even and steady. You want the deep fryer to be as level as possible to reduce the risk of it tumbling over.
  3. Use a dry and completely thawed turkey, otherwise the oil could begin bubbling frantically and spill out of the fryer. If the hot oil does spill it can cause a fire, so keep a fire extinguisher handy just in case this happens. (Tweet This Tip)
  4. Make sure you use oven mittens when dealing with a fryer. You don’t want to burn yourself with the lid and handles, which can be extremely hot.
  5. Keep track of the temperature of the oil, you don’t want it to exceed the manufacturer’s recommended temperature. If your fryer doesn’t have its own thermostat, consider purchasing one.

Perhaps the best tip of all is to remember that if you run into any problems, the experts at the Butterball hotline are available to talk you through any type of turkey emergency you have. If you have any safety tips as well please share them below.

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