The following information was provided by Ben Chapman, NCSU food safety specialist. Following the proper steps to safely thaw, prepare, and cook your bird can reduce the risk of making people ill.
AVOID FOOD BORNE ILLNESS DURING THE HOLIDAYS
Holiday turkey meals have been linked to outbreaks of salmonellosis and campylobacterosis.
•CLEAN AND SANITIZE UTENSILS AND WORK SURFACES AFTER PREPARING RAW TURKEY FOR ROASTING.
•WASH YOUR HANDS AFTER GETTING THE TURKEY READY.
•COOK YOUR TURKEY TO AN INTERNAL TEMPERATURE OF 165°F.
Reduce your food safety risks while thawing:
* If you thaw the turkey in the fridge, plan ahead as it may take 3-4 days to fully thaw (cooking a partially thawed turkey increases your risk of food poisoning).
* Thawing in or under water can be messy and lead to cross-contamination risks.
* Using a microwave to thaw can result in non-uniform thawing. Parts may be cooked while other parts remain frozen.
* Thawing on the counter provides an ideal environment for nasty bacterial growth on the outside of the turkey.
* Regardless of the thawing method, to minimize cross-contamination risks, the frozen turkey should be left in
* the original frozen package. Plastic can be wrapped around the outside to keep meat juices from dripping on ready to eat foods below, or the bird can be placed in a pan to catch the juices.
The biggest risk comes from undercooking the turkey:
Color is not an indicator of safety or doneness. Often, there are suggestions in recipes about turkey being done when "the juices run clear" or when the pop-up button pops. That's a myth. The only way to know whether the turkey is done is with a tip-sensitive digital thermometer reading 165°F. Stick it in to multiple spots and ensure the thermometer doesn't touch the bone.
Refrigerate leftover turkey within 2 hours of taking it out of the oven.