Having a traditional turkey dinner this Christmas? Make sure to serve it up safely. (Photo credit: Jill Wellington/Pixabay)

Having a traditional turkey dinner this Christmas? Make sure to serve it up safely. (Photo credit: Jill Wellington/Pixabay)

Talking turkey: tips for preparing the perfect Christmas bird

From defrosting to cooking and dealing with leftovers, here’s how to have a safe holiday meal

Coping with COVID-19 this Christmas will be hard enough, without adding food-borne illnesses to the mix. Christmas Day turkey dinner is a centrepiece of many festivities, so make sure to practice good food hygiene, from preparation to leftovers.

Illness from Salmonella can put a damper on the happiest of holidays, and epidemiologists often observe an increase in cases after the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Salmonella illness can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps that develop 12 to 72 hours after infection and usually last four to seven days.

To prevent sickness from Salmonella from raw turkey (or whatever poultry you might be cooking this Christmas), make sure that it is thawed thoroughly and properly before you start to cook it. Do not thaw frozen poultry by leaving it on the kitchen counter. Instead, put it in the fridge, using the rule of thumb of 24 hours of defrosting in the fridge for every five pounds of frozen turkey. Keep raw meat separated from other foods and stored in the bottom of your refrigerator, to ensure that the juices don’t drip down onto other foods.

You can speed up the thawing process by putting the (wrapped) frozen bird in a sink or bathtub filled with cold water; about 30 minutes for every pound of frozen meat. Change the water every half-an-hours. Never rinse raw poultry before cooking, because it can spread bacteria wherever the water splashes.

Wash your hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling the turkey. It’s especially important to wash down all cooking surfaces, counters, and cutting boards thoroughly after preparing raw meat.

Turkey should be cooked to an internal temperature of 74º C. or hotter. Use a food thermometer to check the bird’s internal temperature by inserting it into the breast or the inner thigh.

Leftover turkey is, for many people, the best part of a turkey dinner. After the meal is over, put any leftovers into the fridge within two hours. Foods should not be left out longer than four hours, otherwise spore-forming bacteria may regrow and release toxins into the food. Eat refrigerated leftovers within two to three days, or freeze them for later use.

If you will have more leftover turkey than you can use, and are having guests over for dinner this year, encourage them to bring a container and let them load up before they leave.

If your idea of using up leftover turkey only extends as far as making sandwiches, go online and check out individual recipes for turkey soup, turkey pot pie, and turkey curry. You can also go to sites which have collections of recipes to help you use up any lurking turkey. Delish.com has 35 ways to get creative with turkey, from enchiladas, egg rolls, and lasagna to pizza, stuffed peppers, and chili. If you hang on to the turkey carcass you can also make delicious turkey broth which will be sodium-free and great to use as a soup base. Go to http://bit.ly/3asnPfQ for the recipes.


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