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Food safety - turkey

I'm in charge of the turkey this year for the first time ever (although I cooked one last year for my boyfriend and myself, and it turned out wonderfully) and the site of the family festivities is my sister's house. My mom and my sister are telling me the best thing to do is start the turkey at home, cook it about halfway through, then transport it to my sisters house (about a 20-minute drive) and finish there. Is this safe? I'm reluctant but my mom is pulling her usual I-did-it-lots-of-times-and-nothing-ever-happened card. Fair enough, but she also used to leave cooked foods like lasagne at room temperature overnight for us to eat the next day. I still can't believe none of us was ever sick.

Thoughts? (on the turkey... I already know the lasagne thing is bad. :-))

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  1. Don't do it. Cook it at home, then transport.

    1. Lol. Twenty years from now, you'll be trying to remember when the family first started calling you "Little Miss Germaphobe". Mark down 2012 for your therapist. ;)

      Don't transport half-cooked meat. Here's how it'll go:

      You'll give it a few minutes to cool for packaging from your house (10")
      Packing into car, turn back for cell phone, had to stop at store for Cool Whip (15")
      Drive to sis' place (30" -- T-day traffic)
      Arrive "Hey, look who'd here!" hug hug hug "Lil Jimmy wants to show you his new game" "Oh, the boys will unload the car, have some mulled cider" "Grandpa's telling about the first turkey they had after the war" (30" -- possibly endless)
      "Oh, my pies aren't done, there's no room yet for the turkey!" (30" before oven available)

      And now....... your lovely turkey is a bacteria-fest. You might get it to brown on outside but the interior likely won't come up to temp.

      (Do I sound experienced lol? My mom had quite a few borderline food practices and we DID get sick.)

      3 Replies
      1. re: DuchessNukem

        DuchessNukem, you make me laugh! Details aside, your scenario is spot-on what I experienced with one side of the family growing up! For some odd reason, despite a rotating hosting situation, the hosting family never cooked the turkey, and the partially cooked bird was always brought by someone else. Yes, people got sick. And the aunts would argue over who brought the bad dish. Eventually it was democratically chalked it up to over-indulgence or some such sin. Magical thinking/misguided-ness/stubbornness aside, it's not unlikely that the turkey prep tradition may have been the culprit. I started hosting Thanksgiving at a newly married age 22 in self-defense and have done so ever since. I like "my people" but I have to disagree with some of their strongly held notions, y'know?

        I digress...for the OP's situation, I would say this: turkey does need to rest to be at its best. If you are truly 20 minutes away, you have ample time to fully cook the bird and get it to your dinner in time for carving. I rest my 22-24 pounders for a good half hour, well wrapped in foil, and they are nice and hot for carving. Smaller birds likely vary. Still, there's more comfortable wiggle room on this end, than on the partially-cooked end, really. I'm with the others...fully cook, then transport.

        1. re: DuchessNukem

          Lordy, what a horrible blast from the past, thank you for that!

          1. re: DuchessNukem

            Thanks for the chuckle... 20 minutes on a holiday is always more like an hour and a half.

          2. Haha, they already call me a germaphobe, because I'm the only one who doesn't believe in the 5-second rule.

            Anyway, thanks for your responses. I'm going to stand firm and cook completely before transporting!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Minxish

              Here is a suggestion that might work....think about making two smaller birds...one you should cook completely, and the standing period wherein as suggested above to wrap and cover, can be the transportation time at the minimum....cook the second bird halfway, wrap it and finish it at your sister's home.......

              For me, I would only eat the bird that was completely cooked....as an added thought, you might want to use two preparations...something that your family considers "their traditional turkey'....and something you might gleen from your fellow CHders....

            2. A turkey needs a lot of time to rest after cooking fully (it's still too hot to carve 40 mins later, no matter what the guidelines say, unless you have a chicken-sized turkey). So cook it fully then carry it while its resting.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Karl S

                I agree completely. I let the turkey rest a minimum of an hour and prefer about 90 minutes.

                1. re: Janet from Richmond

                  90 minutes? Before serving? That will then sit out another hour+ as you all eat and chat!?! This is more dangerous than transporting the turkey 1/2 done to continue cooking.

                  1. re: Crockett67

                    No, it's not: it's much more dangerous to have a period of declining temps BEFORE it's fully cooked (because you've not killed the organisms yet, and they get a chance to reproduce in the interval). 2 hrs after cooking (where you are only worried about organisms introduced from the environment) is fully safe, and for a large hauch of meat that was fully cooked intact (less surface area of cuts), you can go even longer (as opposed to, say, hamburgers cooked to medium rare...).

                      1. re: Karl S

                        Yeah, because there is no residual microbial load after you remove the turkey from the oven that won't repopulate it when you take the turkey out and let it sit out? And since when are Staphylococcus aureus, E. Coli, and Listeria monocytogenes safe? These are easily passed to food by human cross contamination post the cooking kill step. Like when slicing the turkey or picking at it. It's precisely the microorganism from the environment that causes food borne illness.

                        They are talking about having the turkey out for 20 or so minutes while transporting it not an hour+. As mention, the internal muscle meat is practically sterile and all surface bacterium that may populate during the car trip would be killed within minutes of placing back in the oven.

                    1. re: Janet from Richmond

                      A 90 minute rest? Wow. Do you pull it when the white meat is 150 or so? Do you get to have any crunchy, hot skin?

                      1. re: MGZ

                        Yes....we pull it out at around 150. The skin is fine....but the meat is super-duper terrific and never, ever dry. I care more about the meat than the skin. Our turkey is generally in the 20 lb. range.

                        We also buy fresh, free range turkey that has never been frozen and it cooks MUCH more quickly than a traditional Butterball and the like.

                  2. We do this every year -- I'm in France, so the ovens here aren't big enough to hold a huge bird (about 10 lbs max -- but that's okay, because it's hard to find a bird that big anyway...)

                    BUT -- we host a multi-family celebration, and one bird just isn't big enough -- so my best friend does one in her oven (about 20 minutes away), then packs it into a cooler for the ride (contains the grease and juices and mess, too...) -- by the time it gets here and we get it plated, it's ready to carve.

                    We time it so that I take mine out just before she gets here -- so by the time she's in and stuff carried in from the car and her bird is plated and carved, mine is plated, has rested, and is ready to carve and serve.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sunshine842

                      I also cook the turkey at home to bring to my mothers house and put it in a cooler. Just put very hot water in the cooler several times to warm it up. Wrap turkey in aluminum foil and cover with cheese cloths (i also use an old towel) and its rested and perfect every time.