Turkey Handling Factsheet
08.jul.05, Food Safety Network, Food Safety Network
How do I safely handle a turkey prior to cooking?
Safe, minimal handling and thorough cooking will help to ensure turkey is safe to eat.
After purchasing a turkey, refrigerate (at 4°C/ 40°F or less) or freeze it (at or below -18°C/ 0°F) immediately (Food Safety and Inspection Service, 2003). Plan to use a fresh turkey within 2 days of purchase (Canadian Turkey Marketing Agency, 2002). Remove the giblets (heart, liver and gizzard) and store the turkey in a covered container in the refrigerator until ready to use. Whole turkeys can be frozen for one year. Complete thawing prior to cooking is a critical step in turkey safety no matter which thawing method is chosen (Lacroix, Li & Powell, 2003).
Thawing the turkey in the refrigerator ensures the temperature at the surface of the bird does not rise above 4°C while the center thaws. Leaving the plastic wrap on the turkey, place it on a large enough tray or container to catch any raw juice drippings. Place the turkey in the refrigerator. Make sure the raw juices will not contaminate other foods in the refrigerator, especially raw vegetables stored in the crisper under the bottom shelf. Allow 10 hours per kilogram (5 hours per pound) to thaw completely (Canadian Food Inspection Agency, 2002).
When thawing the turkey at room temperature (23-27ºC), leave the turkey covered in the plastic wrap or place in a leak proof food grade plastic, or remove the plastic wrap and thaw directly in the roasting pan. A safe way to thaw a turkey at room temperature is to over wrap the plastic with a number of layers of newspaper (approximately 8) (Lee, 1993). This provides an insulating blanket for more even thawing. Make sure that the raw juices do not run on the counter. Do not leave smaller turkeys (4.7 kg; 10 lb) thawing at room temperature for more than 12 hours or larger turkeys (11.9 kg; 26 lb) for more than 18 hours (Lee, 1993). Cook immediately. Turkey can also be thawed in the microwave. Cook immediately after defrosting and do not refreeze thawed turkey until it is cooked.
It is not necessary to rinse the thawed turkey with water prior to cooking. Although washing the turkey can remove surface bacteria, the recommended roasting temperature easily destroys any bacteria present on the surface of the turkey (Canadian Turkey Marketing Agency, 2002).
After preparing the turkey for cooking, wash hands with warm soapy water. Sanitize the counter, sinks and any used containers or trays used with a solution of 5 mL (1 tsp) of unscented chlorine bleach in 750 mL (3 cups) of water and let dry completely (Canadian Food Inspection Agency, 2002; Health Canada, 2002).
For more information see the attached factsheet below.