Raw Turkey Must Be Handled Carefully to Ensure Diners' Safety

Sara Moulton says careful preparation is vital when you're cooking poultry.

ByABC News via logo
November 19, 2009, 9:40 PM

Nov. 20, 2009— -- Thanksgiving is less than a week away and turkey is on everyone's mind. Americans eat more than 45 million turkeys at Thanksgiving, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But, as with all other poultry, careful preparation in the handling of your Thanksgiving bird is vital to diners' safety.

Chef and author Sara Moulton dropped by "Good Morning America" to give some quick tips on how to prepare a delicious -- and safe -- Thanksgiving turkey.

It's best to thaw your turkey in a refrigerator that's 40 degrees or cooler, Moulton said. A good rule of thumb is to allow 24 hours of thawing time for every 4 to 5 pounds of turkey.

If you've run out of time, you can defrost the turkey in cold water, allowing 30 minutes for every pound of bird. Be sure to change the water frequently.

Tip: Have an ice chest with plenty of ice on hand. Put your beverages in the chest in order to free up room for the components of your meal, all of which should remain at 40 degrees until they're cooked.

Raw poultry shouldn't be rinsed, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The reason is that when you rinse, you risk contaminating the sink and everything around it with salmonella bacteria.

But, if you'd rather rinse off the juices, you can, Moulton said. You must clean the sink, countertop -- everything else that has come into contact with the raw turkey -- with soap and hot water, and then follow that with a little bleach.

It's safer not to stuff the turkey, Moulton said. The internal temperature of turkey and stuffing should both reach at least 165 degrees. So, if you let the stuffing get to that temperature inside the turkey, the bird would already be up to 175 degrees.

Some people really prefer the taste of stuffing that has been cooked inside the turkey. If you're one of them, just scoop the stuffing out, cover it and put it in the oven.

Tip: Do not purchase prestuffed turkeys. You should stuff the bird right before it's cooked, and stuffing ingredients should be mostly precooked.