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dangerous turkey

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I was just reading through Martha Stewart's "Thanksgiving Made Easy" suggestions. She says to take out the turkey and let it sit at room temp 90 mins to 2 hrs before stuffing and putting it in the oven. Seems like a long time to me to let the bird just sit there. How long before it's dangerous? I always take the turkey from the fridge, prepare it and stuff it, then put it in the oven. It's still cold at that point. Is that wrong? My turkeys have been moist, tender and delicious.

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  1. Nope, not dangerous -- you want the bird to come to room temp (or, at least not cold fridge temp) before roasting, especially if you're going to stuff it. A big turkey stays cold for a pretty long time, so it would be a while before you were in the danger zone.

    1. It's only dangerous if you're going to eat it raw. (Or, seriously, if there's the danger of children coming in contact with it.)

      Leaving it out over 2 hours is the maximum recommended limit. So 90 minutes is fine. I do agree that you should let it 'warm up' at least an hour. It'll cut down on your cooking time.

      1. I would go as far as to say that it's wrong not to let it come to rom temp. But then again, I cook my turkey for only about 2 hours at a high temp. I bet you'll be amazed at how much chill is still on the bird after 2 hours. That all depends on the size of the bird of course. The bigger it is, the longer it'll take to come to room temp. There are way too many "grandmother/government" rules that people still adhere to. By allowing the bird to come to room temp (this not only applies to turkey but to all meaty things from eggs to steak to pork, etc.) you'll have a more evenly cooked bird. Ever been to a diner (or France) where the eggs are in a basket out on the counter?

        1. She is trying to speed up the roasting process and it should be fine. A lot of roast beef recipes want you to bring the roast to room temp before putting it in the oven too. Just don't stuff the turkey until it is ready to go into the oven.

          I don't stuff the bird. I make dressing and bake it. The bird cooks more quickly and evenly and you don't have to worry about the bird getting over done while waiting for the stuffing to reach the correct temperature.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Candy

            I don't stuff either. In the event you feel like you HAVE to stuff the turkey because you like the flavor or something similar, try only stuffing the neck cavity. It will allow the larger, body cavity to still have access to the oven temps.

          2. Thank you for the advice. I place only a small amount of stuffing inside (for my dad) and bake the rest. This year...he comes out of the fridge early and hangs around with us for a while. LOL

            1. its not unsafe bringing it up toward room temp for this period.
              Also, many "fresh" turkeys are actually quite icy inside - the room temp thaw (as well as a rinse, inside and out, under water) helps take off that chill, including getting out the giblets and neck, which are sometimes frozen in there!

              My fresh birds are brined in a canning kettle (usually outside the back door) and then rinsed under warm water and dried before cooking. Also cooking unstuffed helps with any health/temp issues since the heat actually can hit the inner surfaces , which might have bacterial contamination, directly this way.

              1. ditto above on brining, drying, bringing the bird to room temp
                if you want to stuff the cavity (I do. That's why we call it stuffing.)
                SEAR the inside of the bird with hot fat.
                Hot fatty chicken broth or hot bacon fat, or I suppose you could do it with hot oil.
                It's a precarious two person job: one person holding the bird, the other pouring the fat into the cavity. Whoever is stronger holds the bird. You pour it in, sear all the interior surface by tilting the bird, and pour it out (you'll want to have a big bowl handy.)
                Then it's safe to cook the stuffing inside the bird.

                That's how it is done in my family and nobody ever got sick from whatever it is that people get sick from with turkeys and stuffing.

                Plus it's one of those dramatic cooking tasks that could involve shrieking, like throwing live crabs in a pot . . . ah, the memories.
                : )

                1 Reply
                1. re: pitu

                  Speaking of dangerous... Nothing like holding a cold, wet turkey while someone else pours hot oil in it. I'll take my turkey un-stuffed, thank you. Nobody in my family ever got sick because we cooked it right.

                2. I let eveything come to room temperature unless I want it to cook unevently on purpose (like a thin steak which will at least well-done by the time there's any kind of browning on the surface, otherwise) You are cooking it after all - it's not like leaving egg salad out in the noonday sun for 2 hours before eating it.

                  1. Always make sure your in-bird stuffing comes to 165 degrees, which is the temp at which Salmonella is killed.

                    Cooking stuffing in a cold bird will make it take longer to reach 165, so letting the bird warm up will help with this, too.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: C. Hamster

                      heavens, what temp would you need to get the turkey to to get the stuffing to 165? Note, I may be totally ignorant on this since I dont stuff, but its hard enough not to overshoot the temp on the bird as it is.

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        And at what point in our history did 165o become "the temperature at which salmonella is killed"? Last time I got the memo on that it was something like 150o.

                        Besides that, unless you've got raw egg in the stuffing the center part won't be subject to salmonella contamination anyway.

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          last time i took the test, it was 137 degrees.

                          1. re: chez cherie

                            You're right; you just reminded me why I always insist on setting my water heater to 140. It's because many years ago I pulled KP in an Air Force kitchen, and the dishwashing rinse water had to be 140 degrees minimum to prevent salmonella contamination. You really needed rubber gloves to handle those dish racks coming out!

                            1. re: Will Owen

                              The standard final rinse on many Hobart commercial dishwashers is 180F, not 140F which generally requires a heater booster on the dishmachine.

                              And yes, people would wear gloves in unloading

                          2. re: Will Owen

                            That isn't true, the juices from the bird flow into the stuffing and carry the salmonella.

                            1. re: Atahualpa

                              even if the juices flow into the stufing, if you cook the stuffing to 165 degrees, you are MORE than safe. (but your turkey is way dry---the reason gravy was invented!)

                            2. re: Will Owen

                              Not sure what kind of turkey you are using but mine will potentially contaminate the stuffing with blood -- which is basically the entire point of stuffing the turkey anyway. The stuffing must be cooked thoroughly in order to make is safe to eat.

                              USDA specifically says to cook *stuffing in poultry* to 165. Yes, they may be nervous nellies about things like these but its still good advice.

                              You can take the turkey out when its doena nd if the stuffing hasn't come to temp, finish it in the oven while the turkey rests.

                        2. Leaving your turkey out and allowing it to come to room temperature before roasting is important to roasting it properly.

                          About stuffing your bird: there are two possible problems with stuffing. One is that the stuffing doesn't reach the proper internal temperature. The second, most important, and the cause of almost all problems,is not removing all the stuffing from the turkey after cooking, and refrigerating it separately. DO NOT REFRIGERATE YOUR TURKEY WITH THE STUFFING INSIDE.

                          Sometimes I stuff the bird, sometimes I make the stuffing in a separate casserole. With casserole stuffing, I stuff the turkey with whole onions and oranges and herbs to keep the shape and give some additional flavor.

                          1. I think it's a good idea to heat up the stuffing before you put it in the bird. It will kick-start the cooking and make sure it reaches a safe temp.

                            1. Just have to share -- Woke up last year on T-day at my parents-in-law's house to the smell of turkey roasting. Every year they roast it in the morning and let it sit on the counter (thankfully stuffing-less) for 7-ish hours before dinner. Every year everyone eats it without a second thought. I snuck some for my pregnant sister and put it in the fridge but they clearly thought I was nuts for worrying about it. (And FIL has a PhD in a science-related field; go figure.)
                              Talk about a dangerous bird! I've never gotten sick from Thanksgiving, but did get sick off of the leftover turkey soup they made one year before I figured out what was going on. Now, I nuke the he** out of everything I eat there.

                              1. SEVEN HOURS!!!
                                I would claim to be a vegetarian!

                                1. I was just thinking about something my mother used to do....after the meal and the clean up, the left overs would sit out until they all came to room temp. She always said it was because hot food made the fridge work too hard.
                                  I put my leftovers away immediately.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: AnneM

                                    See, there's that "grandmother" influence I was talking about above. They remember the times when you had to store food in a cave, hunt wild hobbits for food, and finally when they got a fridge, they did all they could to keep the new-fangled contraption from breaking down! Hehe, just kidding. I'm with you AnneM, I don't think you can make a fridge work too hard as long as you don't put a massive pot of boiling soup on the shelf.

                                  2. Okay, I need a chowhound opinion on this.

                                    A few years ago I read in a magazine that if you stick a long spoon, like a sundae spoon, into the stuffing, inside the turkey with the end sticking out, it will transfer heat.

                                    The premise being that extra heat will be conducted into the stuffing and bring it to a higher temperature more quickly. I tried it once but didn't do any thing temperature testing.

                                    What do you think? Fact or fiction? Any scientific principle at work here?

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: Mila

                                      Most metals do conduct heat, so it's not completely ridiculous. Whether a small spoon would conduct enough heat to make an appreciable difference, however, is hard to say. It would have to have enough surface area sticking out to gather heat from the warmer outside parts of the oven to effectively transfer to the inner, colder parts of the stuffing, and that seems unlikely.

                                      1. re: Mila

                                        According to America's Test Kitchen this is true. There is a special gadget that looks like a hollow metal tube with a bend in it made specifically for this. The tube is long enough to reach through any turkey cavity from one end to the other. Principle is simple. The metal conducts heat from the outside of the turkey to the inside, so the interior of the stuffing will cook faster.

                                        I don't know how well a spoon would work. The heat is radiated from the metal into the stuffing so you want as much surface area as possible. A thin spoon handle might not make much difference. The doodad they showed on ATK was about 1" in diameter.

                                        1. re: cheryl_h

                                          I saw that episode, too. And I was thinking: I bet a long, sturdy metal turkey baster would probably do the trick as well. Sans bulb, of course.

                                        2. re: Mila

                                          that's pretty hilarious
                                          AND I bet it would work
                                          people stick large nails in baking potatoes for the same reason, or use those little metal gadgets sold in kitchen stores that you impale four bakers on

                                          HaagenDazs, you are totally missing out by scorning the wild hobbit-eater's wisdom!
                                          Half the stuff we learn from Batali and Bittman, my grandmother already did as a matter of course.

                                          1. re: pitu

                                            Hehe, you're right! :-) I shouldn't be so harsh even though I'm being playful. There are many lessons to be learned from our elders, but we can still look at the current state of food and apply those strategies to the lessons from our families.

                                            1. re: HaagenDazs

                                              yeah, it depends on if our families were rotten cooks or geniuses . . .

                                        3. My late Aunt June used to keep the leftover turkey on the screen porch all weekend for people to eat regardless of the weather. Amazingly, no one got sick.

                                          1. I just wanted to attach this weeks NYT article on turkey roasting onto this thread.


                                            I think the temp advice in this piece (pull at 150-155) is right on, if you care about the taste and texture of your turkey. If you have vulnerable people in your group, she suggests putting meat back in the oven for them to insure 165 deg.Cooking the stuffing separately also permits you to insure its doneness, and if you cook it using turkey broth, you will not notice a difference.

                                            We usually use a high temp method that I think was published in Cooks that involves turning the bird from side to side and so forth.

                                            No matter what your cooking method, the critical thing to know is that the temp continues to rise after the bird is removed from the oven - if you cook the bird to a "done" temp, it will be overcooked by the time you eat it.

                                            Good cooking, everyone!

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: jen kalb

                                              I've seen this 150 deg noted a few places now, and it just amazes me. So many people seem to cook to 175 or 180. Once I learned how to cook, the number seemed to be 165, lately 160-ish. Whenever I do 160, some spots seem to be a little pinkish to me, so 150 would worry me.

                                              1. re: Ace_Mclean

                                                I think its a question of when you pull the bird out of the oven, since it continues to cook inside after it comes out - if you pull the bird at 150-155 it will go up to 160 or above.

                                                The temperature recommended in the article are based on sensory quality - when the bird tastes and feels best. The type of bird you buy makes a difference - standard or heritage, whether you brine or not, etc. these days, we use a heritage bird, brine, cook at high temp, dont stuff, flip the bird around and tend to cook till the thigh joint juices run clear. I think that takes us to around 160. Nobody complains and the dark meat is adequately cooked.

                                                PS those old temps were insane. No wonder nobody likes turkey much.

                                            2. When letting our bird come up to room temp, we put two gel ice packs on the breasts to keep them cooler. It's supposed to help offset the fact that the breast meat cooks faster and dries out before the body gets up to temperature. I think I got it out of Cook's illustrated/ATK.

                                              Since I've never done it any other way, I can't prove it works for sure, but we never have dry breast meat, and nobody's gotten sick.