By Orlando Ramirez
From the second you drop it into your cart to the moment it's brought to the table on a platter, the Thanksgiving turkey undergoes a transformation from rock-solid to sweet and succulent. Each step along the way is crucial to the safety and flavor of the final product. And it all begins with thawing.
"Plan, plan, plan. You can't expect to prepare this big meal and not think about it until the day before," is the advice of Eunice Williamson, the nutrition and family consumer sciences adviser at the University of California Cooperative Extension, Riverside. "Plan to have your turkey purchased and thawed in advance and it will make it an easier process."
Experts agree that one of the major sources of food contamination during the holidays is unsafe handling of raw turkey. There are many danger spots along the way and recognizing those critical steps not only ensures the safety of your guests, but also results in a more flavorful turkey and less stress for the cook.
"There are three ways to thaw a turkey," says Williamson. "In the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave."
Whichever method you use, the important step is being organized, says Williamson. "You can't do poor handling at one end and correct it another. Make sure you keep track of what you're doing."
The important guideline is that the so-called "danger zone" for bacterial contamination is between 40 degrees and 140 degrees. In thawing, the idea is to keep the bird at 40 degrees or just below. When cooking the bird, the aim is to get the internal temperature above 140 degrees -- preferably 160 degrees.
Cooking the turkey will not erase any mistakes made during the thawing process. Although the bacteria will be destroyed if the food is brought above 140 degrees, some food poisoning organisms produce toxins that withstand heat.
THE REFRIGERATOR METHOD
THE SINK METHOD