With the upcoming holiday season approaching, it is important to keep food safety in mind. No, not just in the context of wearing goggles when destroying things, but also when looking out for the creepy crawly germs. Holidays should be a fun time, not one filled with getting over a cough or fever.
One of the surest ways to keep bacteria away is through keeping food at proper temperatures. This is especially true when cooking poultry, like the almighty turkey at Thanksgiving. The first step toward keeping you and yours safe is to keep the turkey frozen (0ºF or lower) or refrigerated (35º to 40ºF) until you cook it. The “danger zone” is 41º to 135ºF, and the goal is to keep food outside of this zone as much as possible. Why? These are the temperatures in which bacteria love to grow. Yum, I know.
Even after you cook the turkey, there is still the possibility of it growing dangerous bacteria. Never let cooked (or raw, for that matter) turkey stand at room temperature or in ovens at less than 200ºF or in a holding device at less than 135ºF.
Whenever you are cooking a turkey, you should raise the internal temperature to 165ºF to 170ºF in the innermost part of the breast. If you are measuring the temperature in the thigh, it should be 165ºF to 180ºF. Make sure you don’t touch the bones as you put the food thermometer in the deepest part of the muscle. If you choose to not to work too hard this year and decide instead to get a fully cooked turkey meat, make sure the internal temperature is at least 140ºF when re-heated.
When digging your bird out of the fridge on that late-night binge a few days later (don’t worry, everybody does it), reheat it to an internal temperature of 165ºF. Make sure you store the turkey in the fridge at between 35º to 40ºF, and turkey should only be stored at those temperatures for only a couple of days. If you want to store your cooked turkey longer, it can go in the freezer for up to a year afterward. If you have the ability to vacuum bag it, it will help preserve the taste and minimize the chances of freezer burn.
Of course, you may ask “But, how am I supposed to know what all of these temperatures are?” You can always get a good quality thermometer from our sponsor, Restaurant Equipment World, or through their site devoted to products such as those, www.foodsafetyworld.com.