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How to safely cook your turkey

By Megan Brantley, mbrantley@wcyb.com
Published On: Nov 21 2012 05:05:09 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 21 2012 02:21:35 PM CST

Thanksgiving is Thursday, which means many are home the night before slaving away over a hot stove. But while cooking for this holiday season, it's important to know a few things to make sure that your food is safe to eat.

Thanksgiving is Thursday, which means many are home the night before slaving away over a hot stove. But while cooking for this holiday season, it's important to know a few things to make sure that your food is safe to eat.

If your turkey isn't thawed or cooked correctly, you may find yourself having a tummy ache and it wont be from being too full, but rather possible salmonella poisoning.

We spoke with one of the cooks here at Food City who has been cooking turkeys all day. He gave us a few tips on how you can keep your family safe. Many people are filling the stores picking up their last-minute items for the biggest meal of the year.

However, we learned, the main act of your Thanksgiving meal could be the most dangerous. "It's very dangerous," said Food City chef Keith McGrew. "You're dealing with salmonella and things you can get from uncooked birds."

McGrew gave us a few tips and he says keeping your kitchen sanitized is the first step, especially with cooking utensils. "Something that is on a knife that you used to cut a turkey with, and maybe you cut a roll or something with it, it could get into your roll and you could end up with salmonella poisoning," he explained.

Cross-contamination isn't the only way this bacteria can be spread. We also learned it can grow on your turkey if you thaw it the wrong way.

McGrew tells me one of the worst ways is thawing a turkey on the counter. He says you should really thaw it in your refrigerator a few days in advance, but it's too late to start in the refrigerator if you haven't already. "What we recommend at this point run it in the sink under cold water and we recommend 30 minutes per pound of turkey," he said.

McGrew says the cooking is where people really need to pay attention. He says you should follow the directions on the back of the turkey packaging, which will tell you how hot the oven should be and how long it should cook for. "What you're looking for is an internal temperature of 180 degrees," he explained.

That's where McGrew says is where you will need a thermometer. "It's really important to have one, because there is no real way to know what the temperature of your turkey is unless you have a temperature to give you that," he said.

We learned sticking the thermometers in the breast of the turkey wont give an accurate reading. "What you want to do is get down in between the drumstick and the thighs, get down in the dark meat because that is what takes the longest to cook," he warned.

Food City shopper Evelyn Cross says she doesn't want to take the chance of her family getting sick from an undercooked turkey. "I usually try to get the [thermometer] that has the pop-up and I go by those directions," she told us.

She says she does a little more just to be sure. "[I] cook it just a little longer to be safe," she said.

When cooking stuffing inside of a turkey, we learned it should also be at 180 degrees in temperature to ensure that it is also safe to eat.