Food Safety for Holiday Meats
Posted: October 25, 2011
Except for a frozen turkey, don’t buy your ingredients too far in advance. A whole frozen turkey, weighing 20 pounds or more, will need 3-4 days in the refrigerator to completely defrost. Conversely, a fresh turkey is one that should be kept in the refrigerator for no more than two days before it is cooked.
Initially, it is important to wash the whole bird under cold running water, inside and out, in preparation for roasting. With the breast side up, place it in a large roasting pan with a removable rack on the bottom. The rack ensures an easier transfer of the cooked bird. Now you season the top and cavity of the bird with your favorite poultry seasonings.
Nothing is more disappointing than a main course that is over or under cooked. To avoid this scenario, insert a regular meat thermometer in the thickest part of the turkey while ensuring that it is not touching a bone, as this could affect your temperature readings. A regular meat thermometer is recommended over an instant or quick read, which cannot be left in the meat during oven roasting. It is acceptable to utilize an instant-read thermometer to verify the meats “doneness” once it is pulled from the oven. Always check the internal temperature before your timer predicts the bird to be finished and be wary of trusting pop-up thermometers. Most are accurate, but a double check of the temperature, with an alternative thermometer, is safest for a moist, tasty and safe turkey. Remember to clean your regular thermometer, with hot soapy water, before and after each use.
Not planning on a turkey for your holiday meal, then you should be aware that in May of 2011, for food quality, many internal temperature recommendations for meats were lowered. New recommended suggestions are to cook all raw beef, pork, lamb, veal steaks, chops and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. For safety and quality, you should then allow the meat to rest for a minimum of three minutes before carving or consuming.
If fowl is on the menu, turkey or chicken, whole or ground, the meat must still reach the previously recommended temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. What also hasn’t changed is the recommendation that you do not cook stuffing inside of the bird. For additional food safety tips and frequently asked questions about meat and other foods go the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services website at http://www.fsis.usda.gov./ .
Remember, when meats are cooked to the internal temperatures recommended above you can be comfortable with the safety of your meal. Also, hot foods should be refrigerated within 2 hours of serving the meal. Follow these few simple tips to help ensure a Food Safe Holiday!
Questions can be directed to Extension Nutrition Educator Cindy Javor at 412-473-2540 or firstname.lastname@example.org