Thanksgiving 2021 – Preparing your turkey under stress


Many Americans are once again planning a vacation that is more like it was before the pandemic, but the continuing COVID-19 pandemic coupled with rising costs can make the holiday season stressful. Don’t let this stress stop you from protecting your family from foodborne illness.

According to a survey Ohio State University researchers, about half of Americans will ask their guests to wear masks in their homes while on vacation, up from 67% a year ago. Almost three-quarters said they would likely celebrate with members of their household only.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID Data Tracker shows that 58.8% of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while 68% have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 15% of fully vaccinated Americans have received a booster dose. .

Image courtesy of the American Farm Bureau Federation

Another stressor for American consumers this year is rising costs. The 36th Annual Farm Bureau Survey Says The Average Cost Of This Year’s Classic Thanksgiving Feast For 10 People Has Raised To $ 53.31, Less Than $ 6 Per Person, A 14% Increase From The Average from last year.

Click on the pie chart to enlarge it.

While Thanksgiving in 2021 may have some unique additional stressors, it still has the usual worries. And it’s easy to let the stresses of current events and the holidays take over us and make us forget the basics of cooking that keep our family and friends safe.

By following the tips below, you will reduce your risk of foodborne illness during Thanksgiving.

Clean and disinfect

Always wash your hands before preparing and handling food. Hand washing helps prevent the spread of germs

Clean and sanitize all surfaces that will touch food such as table tops, kitchen counters, stoves, sinks, etc.

Avoid cross contamination

USDA studies found that 60 percent of kitchen sinks were contaminated with germs after participants washed or rinsed poultry. The USDA does not recommend washing your turkey. However, if you wash your turkey in the sink, the sink and surrounding areas should be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized afterwards. To clean, scrub surfaces – including the sink, cutting boards, and counters – with soap and hot water, then sanitize them with a cleaning solution to remove any residual germs. You can use a homemade solution of one tablespoon of unscented liquid bleach in one gallon of water. Allow surfaces to air dry. Make sure to use separate cutting boards, one for meat and another for vegetables and fruit.

Safely Thaw Turkey

Perishable foods should never be thawed on the counter, at room temperature, or in hot water. They should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. There are safe ways to thaw turkey and other foods, including in the refrigerator, cold water, and in the microwave.

Even though the center of the food may still be frozen when it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food can easily be in the “danger zone,” between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F. danger allows bacteria to multiply rapidly.

Remove the giblets from the turkey cavities after thawing and cook them separately.

Defrost in the refrigerator for turkey and other foods

In the refrigerator at 40 degrees F or less

Allow about 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds

4 to 12 pounds 1 to 3 days
12 to 16 pounds 3-4 days
16 to 20 pounds 4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds 5 to 6 days
  • Planning ahead is essential, as a large frozen turkey requires at least 24 hours for 5 pounds.
  • Small amounts of frozen food, like a pound of ground meat or boneless chicken breasts, require a full day to thaw.
  • After thawing in the refrigerator, foods such as ground meat, stews, poultry, and seafood should remain healthy and of good quality for an additional day or two in the refrigerator before cooking.
  • Cuts of red meat such as roast beef, pork or lamb, chops and steaks should be kept safe and of good quality for 3-5 days.
  • Food thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking, although there may be some loss of quality.

Thaw in cold water

In cold water

Allow about 30 minutes per book

4 to 12 pounds 2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds 6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds 8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds 10 to 12 hours
  • This method is faster than thawing in the refrigerator but requires more care.
  • Food should be in a sealed package or plastic bag. If the bag leaks, bacteria from the air or the surrounding environment could be introduced into the food. In addition, the meat tissue can absorb water, resulting in a watery product.
  • The bag should be submerged in cold tap water, the water being changed every 30 minutes to keep it thawed.
  • Small packages of meat, poultry or seafood (about a pound) can thaw in 1 hour or less.
  • A 3-4 pound package can take 2-3 hours. For whole turkeys, estimate about 30 minutes per pound.
  • Once thawed, food should be cooked immediately. Foods thawed by the cold water method should be cooked before refreezing.

Microwave thawing

  • After thawing in the microwave, always cook immediately, whether cooking in the microwave, conventional oven or grilling.
  • It is not recommended to store partially cooked food, as the bacteria present would not have been destroyed in the microwave and the food may have reached optimal temperatures for the bacteria to grow.
  • Foods thawed in the microwave should be cooked before refreezing.
  • Never thaw food in a garage, basement, car, dishwasher or plastic garbage bag; on the kitchen counter, outside or on the porch. These methods can make your food unfit for consumption.

Cooking without defrosting

  • It is safe to cook food from a frozen state.
  • Cooking will take approximately 50 percent more than the recommended time for fully thawed or fresh meat and poultry.

Cook your turkey well

  • Use a meat thermometer to determine when the turkey is done. The turkey is ready when the thermometer reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey thigh. Be aware that dark meat takes longer to cook than any other part.
  • It is not necessary to baste the turkey during cooking. Watering tools can be a source of bacterial contamination if they are dipped in uncooked or undercooked poultry juices and then left at room temperature for later watering.
  • Do not cook a turkey overnight in an oven on low heat. Cooking a turkey at a temperature below 325 degrees Fahrenheit allows harmful bacteria to multiply.
  • If you buy a fully cooked turkey, collect it hot and bring it home to eat immediately.

Stuff your turkey

The USDA does not recommend stuffing your turkey because it can be a breeding ground for bacteria if not prepared carefully. However, if you are planning to stuff your turkey, please keep the following in mind:

  • Wet and dry stuffing ingredients should be prepared separately from each other and refrigerated until ready to use.
  • Stuff turkey loosely – about 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of turkey.
  • Immediately place the stuffed raw turkey in an oven set to no less than 325 F.
  • A stuffed turkey will take longer to cook. When finished cooking, place a food thermometer in the thigh as well as in the center of the stuffing to make sure it has reached a safe internal temperature of 165 F.
  • Let the cooked turkey rest for 20 minutes before removing the stuffing.

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