Three Turkey Tips


DON’T WASH IT!  If you’re thinking that rinsing or washing the turkey will remove any potential bacteria —don’t bother — it won’t work. According to the folks at the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline, the process of washing or rinsing a turkey will not remove any bacteria that may be on it and it won’t make it safer. It’s virtually impossible to wash bacteria off the bird.

The concern with washing poultry (not just a big turkey, but all poultry) is splashing bacteria and cross contamination.

The water used to rinse the turkey adds to the amount of liquid that could be contaminated with bacteria. It can splash around the sink, countertop, onto other dishes, faucets or you, the cook. The chances are high that some of the foods in the “splash zone” won’t be cooked. This could make you or your holiday guests very sick and all of this arises from doing something that you thought was a good thing.

What you really need to do is wash your hands before and after handling your turkey and its packaging. This can go a long way towards avoiding spreading harmful bacteria. If your raw turkey or its juices come in contact with kitchen surfaces, wash the countertops and sinks with hot, soapy water. If you want to make sure everything is bacteria free, you can sanitize the area by using a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Be sure to let those areas dry thoroughly.

WHAT ABOUT PINK TURKEY MEAT?  You can’t use color as a guide to determine whether your turkey is cooked or not.

Turkey meat can remain pink even when it is at the safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Note that smoked turkey meat is always pink. The difference in colors between the “white meat,” “dark meat,” and even “pink meat” is due to the amount of oxygen-storing myoglobin in the meat muscle. Muscles that are used more — like the leg muscles — need more oxygen and can store more, so they have more myoglobin and thus darker meat.

DON’T GUESS. CHECK THE TEMP! The only way that you can be absolutely sure the turkey is completely cooked is to use a thermometer. The minimum temperature a turkey should be cooked is 165 degrees F. Check the internal temperature at several locations, including the thigh and the thickest part of the breast.

Pop-up timers may pop too early because of fat pooling at the tip; always use another thermometer to double check.

While 165 degrees F is the minimum safe temperature for destroying bacteria, the National Turkey Federation recommends cooking turkey to a higher temperature. They say that people will like the quality more and the turkey itself will be easier to carve and slice if it’s cooked to a higher temperature. They frequently suggest 180 degrees.

Anyway, I hope these tips help make your Thanksgiving celebration even greater!

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Here’s a handout with these tips! It’s perfect for a display, presentation, or email blast!


And here are some other great holiday resources…

Summer Food Safety Tips

Be Safe at Summer Picnics!

The temperatures are creeping up outside, and this nice weather means that lots of people will want to have outdoor barbecues, picnics, and pot lucks. These can be a total blast, but I often worry about the extra food safety concerns that accompany these rising temperatures.

Here’s what you and your clients can do to combat foodborne illness this summer…

  • Remember, the “two hour rule” changes to the “one hour rule” when temperatures creep up above 90 degrees F.
    • This means that you should not allow food to sit out at room temperature for longer than one hour.
    • Hot temperatures are just right for allowing the bacteria in food to multiply to numbers that could make people sick. This includes foods on picnic tables, buffet lines at family reunions, and bag lunches.
  • Double check the temperatures in your refrigerator and freezer.
    • Refrigerators should be below 40 degrees F and freezers below zero.
    • This helps to prolong the life and the quality of the food.
  • Put a cooler and some ice blocks in the trunk of your car when you go grocery shopping.
    • Even 20 minutes in a hot car eats into that “one hour” rule.
    • Refrigerate all perishable foods immediately upon getting home.
  • When doing errands, make the grocery store your last stop.
    • Pick up frozen and refrigerated foods just before you hit the checkout lines.
  • If you’re going to a farmers’ market, farm stand, or pick-your-own field, take a cooler along too. Don’t store fresh produce in the trunk of your car.
  • If you don’t finish your meal at a restaurant, make sure there’s a cooler in the car for any food you bring home. The “one hour rule” goes into effect here too!
  • Don’t get careless with picnics and other outdoor food events. Unless you are absolutely sure about the safety of the food, throw away any leftovers.

Living can be easy in the summertime, but food safety takes a little more effort and planning. Have a wonderful and food-safe summer!

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

At the Nutrition Education Store, we’re here to help you look your very best, right now! Check out these bestselling summer resources…

Food Safety Presentation: PowerPoint and Handout Set

How Much Fat is in That? Poster

Display Kit: Real Food Grows

Thank you for scrolling all the way through today’s post! Here’s a free handout with the top summer food safety tips!

Summer Food Safety

19 Pot Luck Food Safety Tips

Over the years I’ve been invited to speak at many meetings and events. Quite often these occasions include food. Frequently, it’s a potluck affair. I’m usually invited to join them for a meal after the program, but I must confess that I often decline.

Pot Luck Danger ZoneWhy?

Well, let’s start with the type of meal the groups are putting together. Potlucks can go by many names — carry-in dinners, pass-a-dish, potlucks, or covered dishes. No matter what you call them, potlucks are scary. It all comes down to foodborne illness.

According to the CDC, every year 1 in 6 Americans gets sick after consuming a contaminated food or beverage. These illnesses are largely preventable with proper food safety, yet potlucks are where food safety strategies often break down. Foods sit out for far too long at the wrong temperature, and people can easily contaminate a dish by grabbing a serving with their hands or double-dipping. When I can, I avoid potlucks or turn them into “teachable moments.”

So is a pot luck in your future? If it is, here are a few dos and don’ts for a food-safe event:

  • Do remember the “two hour rule.” Any potentially-hazardous foods (dairy, meat, fish, cooked vegetables, rice, or chopped/sliced fruits and vegetables) that have sat out at room temperature for more than two hours should not be eaten. If the room temperature is more than 90 degrees, make it a “one hour rule.”
  • Do have a plan for keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hot food should be kept over 140 degrees and cold food should be kept under 40 degrees. If the situation does not allow for temperature control of the food, consider taking (and eating) foods that are less risky. Think bread, chips, nuts, dried fruits, cookies, pretzels, or washed whole fruit.
  • Do consider transportation before you decide on what you’re taking. Can you keep it hot or cold while getting it to the event? Count the transportation time in the “two hour rule.”
  • Don’t forget to wash your hands. When preparing foods for an event, take extra care at home to keep things clean and safe. Be sure to wash your hands before cooking. Plus, if there are animals in your home, keep them away from the food and preparation area.
  • Label It AllDon’t prepare food for other people if you’re sick. If you’ve had the sniffles, vomiting, or diarrhea in the past few days, then don’t cook!
  • Don’t partially cook food at home to finish at the pot luck. The best method would be to completely cook all potentially-hazardous foods at the meal site.
  • Don’t prepare foods the day before with the intent of reheating in a slow cooker. Completely cooking the food on the day of the event eliminates the risky cooling and reheating steps.
  • Do use enough ice. If you’re using coolers to keep food cold, make sure to have enough ice to keep the foods below 40 degrees.
  • Don’t use slow cookers to reheat leftovers. This is too slow. If you’re using a slow cooker to keep the food hot, reheat the food to 165 degrees and then put it in the slow cooker.
  • Don’t use warming trays to cook or reheat food. These appliances are not designed for this purpose.
  • Don’t wait to eat. If facilities are not available to keep the food at the correct temperature, don’t wait until the speaker is done or the “short” business meeting is over to eat.
  • Do encourage people to label and describe their food items. This will help with possible food allergies, and also will keep people from smelling or touching the foods with their hands, taking just a little taste in line to see what it is.
  • Wrap It UpDo remember to have tongs or other serving utensils available. This will help people avoid using their fingers or “double dipping.”
  • Do encourage the use of paper plates and/or clean plates for “seconds” and desserts.
  • Do refrigerate leftovers ASAP. Break large items into smaller portions so that they will cool more quickly. Don’t wait for the speaker to be done or the meeting to be over before cleaning up.
  • Do remember plastic wrap or zip-top bags to allow for quick clean-up and refrigerator storage.
  • Don’t take leftovers home. This could be risky. Not only has the food sat out at room temperatures for a long time, there is potential contamination from the many people passing through the buffet line.
  • Do throw away any leftovers that you are not sure about. All potentially-hazardous leftovers should be discarded.
  • Do remember the garbage. Bring extra garbage bags. Prevent potential contamination by keeping the garbage away from the food preparation and serving areas.

Here’s a handout with the top potluck tips. Feel free to share it with your clients!

Pot Luck Food Safety

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS,  Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

And of course, there are plenty of food safety educational materials available in the Nutrition Education Store. Check out these top sellers!

Food Safety Temperature Guide

Food Safety PowerPoint and Handout Set

4 Steps to Food Safety Poster

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! The Nutrition Education Store just got a lot of new products up and running. I’m sure that you will find something that will make your job easier. Here are a few favorites so far…

Elementary Nutrition Workbook

Snack Guide Handout Tearpad

MyPlate Brochure Card