Extension professionals are a good resource for Thanksgiving food questions – Part 3

Many consumers have questions regarding Thanksgiving meal preparation. Here are some questions that Extension educators typically receive, along with their answers.

As the days narrow until Thanksgiving make sure you are food safe this holiday. This is the third article of a three part series, involving typical questions that Michigan State University Extension educators receive during the Thanksgiving season, along with their answers.

Question: Do you have any tips for cooking a stuffed turkey?

Answer: Cooking a stuffed turkey is riskier than cooking one that is not stuffed. Because the turkey meat itself and the stuffing conduct heat differently it is important to use a food thermometer to check both the turkey (at the thickest part of the thigh and breast) and the middle of the stuffing to make sure they both have reached at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. The turkey itself may heat to temperature ahead of the stuffing, but don’t remove it from the oven until the stuffing is also 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prepare the stuffing itself just prior to placing it in the bird. The stuffing should be moist, not dry – heat destroys bacteria more quickly in a moist environment than a dry one. Don’t cram the stuffing tightly into the bird – make sure it is stuffed loosely so that it can heat evenly.

Question: I have so many things to do. I would like to stuff my turkey the day before Thanksgiving, put it in the refrigerator and cook it the next day. Is this OK?

Answer: No, MSU Extension does not recommend this, as there is a potential for bacteria to multiply in the cavity of the turkey prior to cooking that may not be destroyed in the cooking process.

What you can do to save a little time is to mix all the dry ingredients ahead of time and mix all the wet ingredients ahead of time, but keep them separated and chilled. Mix them just before putting the stuffing into the turkey or a casserole dish.

Question: I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about how to create my first Thanksgiving meal. But what if I run into problems on that day?

Answer: You can search the MSU Extension website at www.msue.msu.edu to see if the answer to your question is there. The United States Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline is available at 1-888-674-6853 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, except weekends and most holidays. They have special hours of operation on Thanksgiving, from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. ET.

Food manufacturers also have hotlines that assist consumers with last minute Thanksgiving assistance. Here are some toll-free numbers:

  • Reynold’s Turkey Tips Line: 1-800-745-4000, open until Dec. 31, 2013, 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • Butterball Turkey Talk Line: 1-800-BUTTERBALL (288-8373), available Thanksgiving Day, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. ET
  • Foster Farms: 1-800-255-7227, live operators answer questions 24 hours day from Nov. 19, 2013 through Dec. 1, 2013.
  • Crisco Pie Hotline, 1-877-367-7438. Provides recording answers to common questions about baking and an option to connect to a live pie expert for guidance.
  • Land O’Lakes Holiday Bakeline, 1-800-782-9606, available from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET, seven days a week.
  • Betty Crocker, 1-888-ASK BETTY (275-2388). Open 8:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. ET, seven days a week.
  • Ocean Spray, 1-800-662-3263. Staffed year-round on weekdays 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. ET, and Thanksgiving Day.

This is part three in a Thanksgiving food safety series. For more information on food safety during the Thanksgiving holiday please read the other articles in this series. For additional information about preventing foodborne illnesses, as well as other issues of interest to families, contact your local MSU Extension or call toll-free 1-888-MSUE-4-MI (1-888-678-3464).

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