Here are the most important tips for having a safe turkey dinner:
Chill your fresh, frozen or defrosting turkey
Buy a fresh turkey only if you plan to cook it within two to three days, or before the “best before” date on the label. Fresh turkeys cannot be stored safely for longer than this. Keep your fresh turkey refrigerated at 4°C or colder until you are ready to prepare it. Place it in a deep dish on the bottom shelf so that its juices do not drip on other foods.
If you have a frozen turkey, the safest way to defrost it is in the refrigerator. Put it in a deep dish and place it on the bottom shelf so that its juices do not drip on other foods. Keep it refrigerated until it is completely defrosted: allow five hours of defrosting time for each pound of turkey (or 10 hours for each kilogram).
For faster defrosting, place the frozen turkey in your sink, keeping it in its original packaging. Run cold water over it continuously until it is completely defrosted. You can submerge the turkey in a filled sink instead, but you must drain and refill the sink with fresh cold water every hour until the turkey is completely defrosted. Allow one hour of defrosting time for each pound of turkey (or two hours for each kilogram). Cook the turkey as soon as it is defrosted.
Never clean your turkey because this can actually spread bacteria wherever the water splashes. Follow the HEAT rules to kill the bacteria that naturally exist in turkey.
Clean surfaces and utensils with hot water and soap right after they touch the raw turkey or its juices. It is important to clean them before you start preparing another type of food.
Even if you follow suggested cooking times on the turkey’s packaging, you must ensure the turkey reaches a safe temperature of 82°C. When you take the turkey out of the oven to check it, stick your food thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. Wait the amount of time recommended for your thermometer type and then read the temperature.
Cook stuffing separately either on the stove top or in its own dish in the oven. If you choose stuff the turkey, stuff it right before you put the turkey in the oven. Use your food thermometer to ensure the stuffing heats thoroughly to 74°C.
When the turkey and stuffing are finished cooking and you take them out of the oven, remove all the stuffing from the turkey immediately.
Keep cooked food above 60°C until you are ready to serve. You can do this by keeping it on the stove, in the oven or on a warming tray. Use your food thermometer to monitor the temperature of the food.
Chill your leftovers
After cooking, divide any leftovers into smaller containers to help them cool down quickly. Refrigerate or freeze them within two hours of cooking.
Use refrigerated leftover turkey within four days, or frozen leftover turkey within three months. Use leftover stuffing within three days. Use leftover gravy within two days, and bring it to a boil when you reheat it.