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Tips for Thawing Your Thanksgiving Turkey

For more information contact your local county extension agent: Potter County 373-0713 Randall County 468-5543

1 – Thanksgiving is 8 days away,  however, if you plan to buy a big frozen turkey, you may need to start thawing it this weekend in your refrigerator to keep it safe.   A 23-pound turkey will take four to five days to thaw, according to the Let’s Talk Turkey Consumer guide on the U.S.D.A. food safety web site
 
2 – When selecting the turkey, think about how many people you will feed, (plan about a pound of meat per person – remember there’s bone in there too; and also if you want to make turkey enchiladas, turkey soup, turkey salad, etc.)  You may want a five-pound hen like this one  if you don’t like leftovers.
 
3 – Thawing your turkey in the refrigerator is the best way to ensure the safety of the meat.   We never leave it out on the counter to thaw because the outer flesh will be at room temperature while the inside cavity will still be frozen.  So, potentially harmful bacteria will be multiplying.  In just two hours, five bacteria will turn into over 1200.  Sometimes people ask if cooking will kill all of them-- it will kill a percentage, but not all of it.  
 
It can be thawed in cold water, however, that requires that you set a time and be present to change the water every 30 minutes, and you have to make sure that there are not tears in the original wrapping because anything that was on the hands of any shopper in the store who touched the product will drift inside the cavity and contaminate the produce.
 
4 – Although microwave thawing is listed on the web site, it is not recommended because the wings and leg meat may completely cook and be very dry and undesirable while the cavity is still frozen.  You lose a lot of product that way.
 
5  - There are lots of resources to help you cook the poultry once it is properly thawed.  The USDA Let’s Talk Turkey Web site is the test source and then there is the poultry hotline that you can call, but there may be lots of traffic there so call early.
 
6 – If you family prefers beef or pork or other lean meats, the USDA food safety inspection service web site has food safety information for all types of meat products. 
 
7 – How do you know if there’s a food borne illness outbreak?   The symptoms can occur within three to 72 hours after consumption and the mimic the flu.  So if three or four of your dinner guests all come down with the flu all about the same time, it may be a food borne illness. 
 
8 – Turkey is a great protein value this time of year.  Keep the turkey frozen until ready to cook.
 
9 – For more information contact your local county extension agent:
 
Potter County 373-0713
Randall County 468-5543
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