National Registry of Food Safety Professionals Talks Turkey with Holiday Cooks

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Planning and Cooking Tips to keep families safe this Thanksgiving

There's a lot of pressure to get Thanksgiving right, and these tips will help minimize the stress and maximize the tradition

Cooler temperatures, seasonal decorations, and a World Series Champion are all reminders that Thanksgiving is just around the corner. As families begin to make holiday shopping lists, and plan this most favorite of meals, The National Registry of Food Safety Professionals is arming holiday chefs with a few helpful tips to make the most of the holiday experience.

"There's a lot of pressure to get Thanksgiving right, and these tips will help minimize the stress and maximize the tradition," said Larry Lynch, President of the National Registry of Food Safety Professionals.

Ice Age
The turkey thawing process can throw a major wrench into the Thanksgiving meal preparation. And because busy Americans often forget or underestimate just how long that process takes, they're left to make a hasty, and often unsafe, decision - electing to either thaw it on the kitchen counter at room temperature, or to thaw it using the oven.

When raw meat sits at room temperature for more than two hours, even in a frozen state, bacteria begin to grow rapidly.

Safer options include thawing a frozen bird in the refrigerator, in cold water if there's no room in the fridge, or in the microwave if the bird will fit.

Thawing Time in the Refrigerator
Size of Turkey    Number of Days
4 to 12 pounds    1 to 3 days
12 to 16 pounds    3 to 4 days
16 to 20 pounds    4 to 5 days
20 to 24 pounds    5 to 6 days
Tip - a thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for
1-2 days.

If fridge or microwave space is lacking, don't panic. The turkey can be thawed by submerging it in cold water - just remember to change the water every 30 minutes. The following timeframes will help estimate the amount of time the turkey will take to thaw in cold water.

Thawing Time in Cold Water
Size of Turkey    Hours to Defrost
4 to 12 pounds    2 to 6 hours
12 to 16 pounds    6 to 8 hours
16 to 20 pounds    8 to 10 hours
20 to 24 pounds    10 to 12 hours

When using the microwave, be sure to check the manufacturer's guidelines. Turkey should be cooked immediately after thawing.

It's Getting Hot in Hereā€¦
Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey. A whole turkey is safe cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F throughout the bird. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. All turkey meat, including any that remains pink, is safe to eat as soon as all parts reach at least 165°F. The stuffing also should reach 165°F, whether cooked inside the bird or in a separate dish.

When turkey is removed from the oven, let it stand 20 minutes. Remove stuffing and carve turkey.

Gravy Train
There's nothing like turkey, mashed potatoes, and dressing drenched in gravy, but the bacteria train is lying in wait if the gravy is not properly prepared. Cooks should bring gravy to a boil - not only in the original preparation, but also when re-heating the sauce to enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers.

Guest Stars
Thanksgiving meals are best when shared with friends and family. And because visitors often bring a favorite dish to share at the special celebration, transporting that sumptuous casserole safely is key. Be sure to anticipate how much time it will take to travel to your destination, and pack a cold dish in a cooler or a hot dish in an insulated or thermal bag if you're destination is 1-3 hours away.

About The National Registry of Food Safety Professionals: The National Registry of Food Safety Professionals develops and maintains certification examination programs in the food safety profession. National Registry is recognized internationally by the food service industry for its tests and service delivery standards and practices. More information can be found at


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