GREENWICH, Conn. Thanksgiving cooks need to take precautions when preparing their turkey to prevent food-borne illnesses, the Greenwich Department of Health says. Here are a few tips about storage and cooking methods:
Refrigerate fresh, ready-to-cook whole turkeys immediately. They are just as perishable as fresh meat and fish. Loosely wrap the giblets and store them separately.
Keep frozen turkeys frozen and tightly sealed in their original plastic covering before thawing. Never thaw at room temperature. Instead, always thaw frozen turkeys in the refrigerator. This takes time sometimes several days for larger birds (about one day for every five pounds) so plan ahead. Another safe way to thaw a turkey is to place the wrapped turkey in a clean container and run cool tap water over it (be sure to keep the water running).
Wash hands properly before preparing food, after handling raw meat and before eating. Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, rinse and dry with a paper towel.
Wash the turkey thoroughly before cooking. Be careful to clean and disinfect all surfaces and utensils that come in contact with the raw turkey prior to their contact with other cooked and ready-to-eat foods. A good disinfecting solution is one teaspoon of household bleach to one gallon of water.
Ideally it is best to cook stuffing separately to keep bacteria from growing in the turkey cavity.
If you must stuff the turkey, do so just before cooking. If it is necessary to make the stuffing ahead of time, refrigerate it separately. Under no circumstances should the turkey be stuffed and refrigerated overnight.
Cook the turkey thoroughly. Its best to use a meat thermometer to be sure the turkey and stuffing have been cooked to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees. Never partially cook a turkey and then finish cooking it later. Bacteria can survive in a partially cooked turkey.
If making gravy, be sure to cook giblets thoroughly and bring the gravy to a boil. Keep the gravy very hot 140 degrees or above prior to use. Refrigerate immediately after the meal.
As soon as possible after dinner, remove all stuffing from the turkey and store in a clean separate container. Remove turkey from the bone and place the turkey and stuffing in the refrigerator or in the freezer immediately.
If you have leftover turkey, be creative and use leftover vegetables and turkey to make a deep-dish pie or frozen personal TV dinners. Take a little of everything, fill an aluminum tin, cover with foil and freeze. All food and gravies should be reheated to at least 165 degrees before serving.
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