August 18, 2017

Debunking Thanksgiving Myths

The USDA is trying to debunk Thanksgiving myths to help consumers keep their families safe over the holiday season. Many people believe these methods for preparing and storing food and they can make someone sick, perhaps seriously ill.

Thanksgiving turkey

The first myth is that it’s okay to leave food outside when the weather is freezing. This may seem safe, especially if the temperature is below freezing and snow is on the ground, but it is not, for two reasons.

The first reason is animal contamination. Animals can get into food stored outside, and can easily contaminate it. Wild animals often carry pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli. And family pets can also harbor bacteria, even if they do not seem sick.

The second reason it is unsafe to store food outside is temperature variation. A plastic food storage container that it placed in the sun can easily heat up and temperatures inside can go into the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F. The best way to keep excess food at a safe temperature is in an insulated cooler packed with ice. And that cooler should be put in the shade.

Another myth is that you can’t cook a frozen turkey. In fact, cooking turkey from the frozen state is not only safe, it produces a superior product with must less risk of cross-contamination from turkey juices. Step by step instructions on how to cook a frozen bird can be found here.

A third myth is that the Thanksgiving turkey is done when the juices run clear. The fact is that you always need to use a food thermometer to tell when the turkey is thoroughly cooked. Use the thermometer in three locations: the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing, and the thickest part of the breast. The thermometer should read 165°F in all locations.

Juices do not run clear at that temperature, and when they do the turkey is usually overcooked, which results in dry meat. For more information, please see Is Pink Turkey Safe?

Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving with your family and friends.

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