Ensuring a tasty gobbler is safely prepared is key

It’s amazing how the holidays seem to sneak up on me. Nevertheless, I believe the holidays are officially here.

My family already is planning our Thanksgiving meal. Many things will be prepared on the big day, but there is much preparation needed before the all-so-special day. Ensuring food safety guidelines are followed is important to a wonderful, successful family event.

The United States Department of Agriculture has some great tips for planning and preparing for Turkey Day.

Whether you are using a fresh or frozen turkey (whole), you should allow 1 pound of turkey per person. If you are using a frozen pre-stuffed turkey, allow 1 pounds of turkey per person. If a turkey breast is used, allow of a pound per person, and if a boneless turkey breast is prepared, allow pound of turkey per person.

Do not buy fresh pre-stuffed turkeys, and only buy frozen pre-stuffed turkeys that have the USDA or state mark of inspection on the packaging. This assures you the turkey is safe because they have been processed under controlled conditions. Fresh pre-stuffed turkeys may not be safe because of harmful bacteria.


When it comes time to thaw your holiday turkey, remember there are only three ways to safely thaw your turkey – in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.

Thawing your turkey in the refrigerator below 40 degrees fahrenheit is my preferred method because it can be refrozen if necessary and it takes less work. Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey. This means if you have a 20-pound turkey, it should be thawing in your refrigerator now! Keep the turkey in the original wrapper and put it in a pan to catch any juices. A thawed or fresh turkey can remain in the refrigerator for one to two days.

If you do not have enough refrigerator space, you may choose to thaw your turkey in cold water. Allow approximately 30 minutes per pound. To thaw turkeys safely in water, wrap it securely and put in cold tap water. Water should be changed every 30 minutes and turkeys should not be left in water overnight. Turkeys thawed in water must be cooked immediately once thawed and cannot be


Although using a microwave oven is an approved method of thawing a turkey, you must check the manufacturer’s instructions on how to thaw a turkey. Check the size of turkey your microwave will accommodate, the minutes per pound, and the power level to use for thawing. If you find all this information, then you can remove all outside wrapping, place the turkey in a microwave safe dish, and thaw. After thawed, cook immediately and do not refreeze or



Remember to remove the giblets before roasting your turkey. They should be cooked separately. When roasting your turkey, do not set your oven temperature lower than 325?F. At 325?F, an unstuffed 15-pound turkey will take approximately 4 hours to roast. Your turkey should reach a minimum internal temperature of 165?F, which only can be measured using a food thermometer. You can check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing as well as the thickest part of the breast. It is recommended that you check the temperature of the turkey with a food thermometer even if the turkey has a “pop-up” temperature indicator. Stuffing should also reach an internal temperature of at least 165F.


Get rid of any turkey, stuffing, or gravy left out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. When storing your leftovers, refrigerate in small portions for quicker cooling or freeze for no more than 6 months. Use refrigerated turkey and stuffing within 3 to 4 days and gravy within 1 to 2 days.

For a chart on roasting times by turkey weight and other information about safely handling your turkey, visit the USDA food safety website at www.fsis.usda.gov and search “Turkey Basics.” You also may call the WVU Extension Service in your county – Barbour County, 304-457-3254 or Randolph County, 304-636-2455.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!