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November 13, 2001
ST. LOUIS -- The hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving is starting to catch up with you, and you may feel tempted to take a few short cuts -- like thawing a frozen turkey on the countertop or not cooking the bird as long as recommended. Don't do it, says Kathleen Kress, assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University.
"People often get sloppy with their food preparation, which can leave them feeling not so good the following day," Kress said. "Sometimes mild symptoms of diarrhea and nausea are the result of not thoroughly washing and cooking your turkey."
It is very important to carefully prepare and cook your turkey because raw and undercooked turkey can carry germs, such as salmonella, which can make people sick. Kress suggests that you thoroughly wash everything that the raw turkey and its juices have touched, including all utensils, cutting boards and counter tops.
"Cross contamination occurs when the same utensil is used for both raw food and cooked food without sanitizing it," Kress said. "The best sanitation method is mixing a tablespoon of bleach with a gallon of water to sanitize the sink, knives and cutting boards to avoid food-related diseases such as salmonella."
Kress suggests these additional strategies to help guarantee a healthy and happy Thanksgiving:
- Defrost your frozen turkey in the refrigerator, and allow a day for every five pounds. If you're running short of time, you can thaw a turkey in cold water by submerging it completely, and changing the water frequently to keep it cold. Allow 30 minutes per pound to defrost a whole turkey.
- Cook the turkey to between 165 and 180 degrees to kill all bacteria. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey to get an accurate reading. If you cook stuffing inside the turkey, pack it loosely and make sure it reaches a temperature of 165 degrees.
- Plan to serve, eat and store leftovers within two hours of taking it out of the oven. Bacteria that cause food poisoning can multiply to dangerous levels on food that is left at room temperature for long periods of time.