Experts promote safety ahead of holiday meal preps

Safety tips for cooking that Thanksgiving bird

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - As millions of families across the country prepare to carve up a turkey for Thanksgiving, some local experts are passing along important tips to keep folks safe.

Marc Ardoin, corporate chef with Rouses Market, says it’s vital people be mindful of the risks of salmonella, food poisoning, and other illnesses when cooking their bird.

“Salmonella can be a beast,” said Ardoin. “Any kind of foodborne illness or bacteria can definitely ruin the holiday.”

This year alone, outbreaks of salmonella have been blamed for getting 164 people sick in 35 states. It’s a risk that’s even more ripe around the holidays and could affect the centerpiece of your meal if you don’t properly handle your poultry. “You want to make sure that you’re keeping your family safe,” Ardoin added.

Ardoin believes it’s necessary to take every precaution when cooking turkey, beginning the moment it’s taken out of the freezer. A frozen turkey should never be left out on the counter to thaw. It can thaw in the fridge, in the microwave, or under cold running water, but it’s vital the bird stays below 41°.

“You want to make sure you’re keeping it below that. That cold water will help make sure that it’s thawed out properly and stays within the temperature range you want it to,” said Ardoin. When cooking the turkey, it should be placed in a large pan and should be given plenty of time to cook thoroughly. “It’s going to take about two and a half hours to cook a 10 to 12 pound turkey,” Ardoin said.

Some important things to remember include cooking it for 15 to 20 minutes per pound, making sure the temperature inside the turkey reaches 165°, and keeping a close eye on it throughout the process. There are several moving parts when preparing a turkey, but Ardoin says the most important tool needed to keep cooks on track is a thermometer. “A thermometer is the biggest thing that can help you have a perfectly cooked turkey without an overcooked, dry turkey or unfortunately, a raw turkey,” he added.

The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) has also released a more detailed list of safety tips for holiday food preparation. It can be found here.

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