Turkey, ham, fish or lamb… whichever is on the menu over the holiday season, Ottawa Public Health can lend you a hand. Since we can’t be there in person 😉, we can offer some tips on how to prepare, store and serve a safe meal.
To stuff or not to stuff? That is the question.
Stuffing holds moisture really well. Moisture may be the key ingredient to a delicious stuffing recipe, but it also makes for a perfect environment for bacteria to grow, especially because you can’t heat it up or cool it down quickly. It is best to cook your stuffing separately, in its own dish, in the oven or on the stove top, and not in the turkey. Cook the stuffing to an internal temperature of at least 74°C (165°F).
If you really want to add stuffing to your turkey, stuff your poultry loosely just before roasting. Make sure the stuffing reaches the same safe internal cooking temperature as the turkey – which is at least 82°C (180°F).
But wait! Before you stuff the turkey, you need to safely defrost it. Some defrosting Do’s and Don’ts are:
✓ Defrost the turkey in the fridge. This could take up to a few days, depending on the size of the turkey. Place it on a tray on the bottom shelf of the fridge. The tray will catch juices that might leak while the turkey defrosts.
✓ Defrost the turkey under cold running water. Keep the turkey in its original packaging and place it into a clean container in the sink. Run the cold water on the turkey until it has defrosted or completely cover the turkey with cold water and change the water every 30 minutes until it has defrosted.
- Don’t defrost the turkey on the counter at room temperature. The bacteria on the surface of the turkey will grow faster than if it was in the fridge.
- Don’t rinse the turkey before cooking it. The splashing water will spread bacteria in and around your sink, increasing the chance of cross contamination.
- Don’t deep fry a frozen or partially defrosted turkey. The turkey will explode in hot oil.
- Don’t forget! Wash your hands before and after preparing the turkey and many times in between.
If turkey isn’t your thing, use this handy chart to find out the safe internal cooking temperature for any meat on your Holiday menu.
Once you think a food item is done cooking, use a probe thermometer to ensure that food has reached the proper temperature for 15 seconds before eating it. Place the probe thermometer in the thickest part of the meat. It is important not to rely on the colour of the food or juices as an indicator that meat is safe to eat.
Visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca for more food safety tips.