CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - It can be difficult to prepare a Thanksgiving meal. One of the biggest concerns many people have is making sure the turkey and side dishes are cooked all the way through to prevent food poisoning.
"One of the major issues over the holidays concerns improperly cooking the stuffing that is placed inside the bird," Palmetto Poison Center at USC's South Carolina College of Pharmacy director Dr. Jill Michels said in a statement. "Even if the bird is cooked correctly, stuffing may not have reached the temperature necessary to kill potentially harmful bacteria."
The Palmetto Poison Center has some tips to keep family members healthy if you cook the turkey.
- Refrigerate or freeze perishable food within 2 hours of shopping or preparing.
- When thawing in the refrigerator, allow 24 hours for each 4-5 pounds of meat. Thawing meat on the counter at room temperature is not safe
- Submerging the turkey in COLD tap water is also a method for thawing. Make sure the bird is in a leak-proof container and change the water every 30 minutes until thawed.
- Never place fresh fruit/vegetables or cooked food in the same container or on the same surface that raw food has touched.
- Always wash your hands after handling raw meat. Scrub hands, wrists, fingernails and in between fingers with soap for at least 20 seconds.
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers immediately
- For optimal safety, cook the stuffing outside the turkey in a casserole dish. If you place it inside the turkey, do so just after thoroughly cooking the turkey.
- Set oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees Fahrenheit and make sure the turkey is completely thawed.
- Cook the bird breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a roasting pan 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep.
- Check the temperature at the meaty portion of the breast, thigh and wing. The safe minimum internal temperature is 165oF.
The USDA issues the following recommendations for cooking a turkey:
- 8-12 pound birds should cook from 2 ¾ to 3 hours
- 12-14 pound birds should cook from 3 to 3 ¾ hours
- 14-18 pound birds should cook from 3 ¾ to 4 ¼ hours
The Palmetto Poison Center says it has trained nurses and pharmacists who can provide information when food poisoning occurs. To contact the center, call 1-800-222-1222 or visit their website.