COLUMN: Lyle Karasiuk — Dec. 19, 2013

Lyle Karasiuk
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Many Christmas tables will soon be decorated with lots of food but feature will be the roasted turkey. It seems so simple to prepare, but turkey like any poultry requires a little bit of safe food handling.

• Be prepared!

Before purchasing your turkey, make ample space in your refrigerator, moving shelves if necessary. What size turkey do I need to buy? When purchasing a whole turkey, purchase at least one pound of uncooked turkey per person. You'll have enough for the feast and for leftovers too.

• When should I buy it?

Keep in mind that a whole turkey takes about 24 hours per four to five pounds to thaw in the refrigerator. (For example: A 15-pound frozen bird will take three to four full days to thaw in the refrigerator.)

Ideally, purchase your frozen turkey as far in advance as necessary to safely thaw it in the refrigerator. If buying a fresh turkey, purchase it only one to two days before the meal and keep it refrigerated. Thawing and Handling 
Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling the turkey.

• Never defrost turkey on the counter!

Turkey can be thawed in the refrigerator or in cold water. The refrigerator method is the safest and will result in the best finished product. Leave the bird in the original packaging and place in a shallow pan and allow refrigerator thawing time at a rate of 4 to 5 pounds per 24 hours. To thaw in cold water, keep turkey in the original packaging, place in a clean and sanitized sink or pan and submerge in cold water. Change the cold water every 30 minutes. The turkey will take about 30 minutes per pound to thaw. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. Do not refreeze. Stuff safely. Cooked inside or outside the bird, all stuffing and dressing recipes must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165 °F. For optimum safety and more even cooking, it’s recommended to cook your stuffing in a casserole dish.

• Take the temperature!

Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching bone. Cook to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

For reasons of personal preference, cook turkey to higher temperatures but not to exceed 170 °F in the breast and 180 °F in the thigh. Storing leftovers safely. Remove the stuffing and carve the extra turkey meat from the bones. Within two hours, store leftover turkey in shallow containers and put in the refrigerator or the freezer.

Use cooked leftover turkey, stuffing and gravy within three to four days. Cooked turkey keeps for three to four months in the freezer.

When using leftovers, reheat the foods thoroughly to 165 °F or until hot and steaming; bring gravy to a boil before serving. Thanks to Health Canada for a portion of these food safety tips. With so much going on it is easy to forget that small items such as candies, nuts or even toys can be choking hazard. Knowing what to do in that emergency may save someone’s life.

But besides that entire turkey grab a stick, play some hockey, go for a walk or maybe Santa is getting a tread mill for Christmas. Getting some exercise is a good way to shed a few extra holiday pounds.

On behalf of the management and staff of Parkland Ambulance Care Ltd. Merry Christmas. Please have a safe and wonderful holiday season with your family and friends. If holidays are in the plans, travel safe and be prepared. Please do not drink and drive. From our family to yours have a great holiday season!


Organizations: Health Canada, Parkland Ambulance Care Ltd. Merry Christmas

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