November 19, 2018

Worried about Salmonella? Use Proper Cooking Techniques for Your Turkey

Traditional autumn vegetables ingredients for tasty Thanksgiving or Christmas dishes on rustic kitchen table. Top view

Rule No. 1 on Thanksgiving: don’t thaw your turkey on the counter! So, how do you thaw a turkey?

Turkey is a staple on holiday menus like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter – it’s estimated that 46 million turkeys are consumed on Thanksgiving each year. The CDC and its partners are investigating an outbreak of anti-drug resistant salmonella infections linked to raw turkey products. The direct source of the outbreak, which multiple states are experiencing, isn’t known at this time.

It’s not the most comforting news right before the holiday but your table spread doesn’t have to go without it! Rather, it’s a good reminder to be aware and simply use caution when handling and preparing raw turkey.

Proper food handling techniques to prepare and cook your turkey this Thanksgiving:

  1. Thawing your turkey. Thaw your turkey in a container in the refrigerator or in a leak-proof plastic bag in a sink of cold water that is changed every 30 minutes. Never thaw a turkey by leaving it out on the counter.
  2. Wash your hands. Avoid contamination from one food to another – wash your hands before, during and after preparation. Use separate cutting boards for raw meat, poultry and seafood.
  3. Cook thoroughly. Set your oven temperature to at least 325°F to cook your turkey. Cooking times vary depending on the weight of the turkey. Use a thermometer to make sure your turkey has reached a safe internal temperature of 165°F at the thickest portions of the breast, thigh and wing joint. Cooking a turkey thoroughly will destroy salmonella and other foodborne germs.
  4. Leftovers. Refrigerate leftovers at 40°F or colder as soon as possible and within two hours of preparation.

Symptoms of salmonella infection are fever, diarrhea and stomach cramps, and they usually last four to seven days. Salmonella can lead to death if not treated promptly with antibiotics, however, it is rare and individuals often recover without treatment.

Remember, if you plan to handle raw turkey: wash your hands after touching it, cook products thoroughly to avoid getting sick and thaw turkeys in the refrigerator – not on the counter.


If you believe you have a salmonella scare and need care this Thanksgiving holiday, know your healthcare options: here’s your three options for care close to home in western North Carolina.
Need a healthy turkey recipe? Download our free Thanksgiving recipe e-book: missionhealth.org/thanksgiving.

References: Mission Health Infection Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention