Avoid the turkey curse this Christmas: How to prepare your bird

Avoid food poisoning with proper turkey preparation

A golden, roasted turkey is a traditional centrepiece of the Christmas Dinner, meaning you need to ensure it is as tasty as possible. 

You might be busy thinking of ways you can make this year's turkey extra delicious, but it is important to remember that the most vital aspect of preparing your turkey is that it needs to be cooked properly.

Cases of food poisoning often spike over the festive period, with undercooked turkey being a main culprit. To avoid you and your family getting ill at a time of year that should be happy and fun, you need to know how to prepare your turkey correctly.

Fully defrost

If you have bought a frozen turkey, you need to ensure it is fully defrosted before cooking it. The packaging may have defrosting guidelines on it, which you should follow correctly to ensure your turkey is ready for the oven.

For birds that don't have instructions on the packaging, you need to work out the defrosting time well in advance so you know when you have to take it out of the freezer, as it can take a few days to totally defrost.

As a guide, the NHS suggests you should allow ten to 12 hours per kg if defrosting in a fridge set at 4 four degrees Centigrade. If you're defrosting in a cool room, you'll need around three to four hours per kg. A room at normal temperature – around 20 degrees Centigrade – will need two hours per kg. 

You should also remove the giblets as early as possible as this will allow the turkey to fully defrost quicker.

Prepare correctly

When your turkey is defrosted, it is important that you keep it away from any other food. The defrosting juices should be tipped away carefully to avoid them splashing onto other food or surfaces, which can spread bacteria and cause illness. 

You should be sure to wash your hands if you handle the raw turkey, as well as any utensils that come into contact with it. It is also best to have a chopping board that is used for raw meats, as you shouldn't cause cross-contamination by using things with raw and cooked food.

If you are stuffing the turkey, check for any ice crystals in the cavity as this will be a good indication that it is not fully defrosted.

Cook thoroughly

Now your turkey is ready for the oven, you need to know how long it is going to take to cook. Not only will this help you plan the rest of your Christmas dinner, it will also ensure the meat is cooked through. Failing to properly cook your turkey could lead to serious illness.

You can tell that your turkey is cooked as the meat will be steaming all the way through, there should be no pink meat at the thickest parts and any juices should run clear when you prick it. If your bird ticks all of these boxes, you're good to dish up. 

It is a good idea to use a thermometer, as this will allow you to check that the turkey is at the right temperature. You should use a thermometer in the thickest part of the bird and it should reach 70 degrees Centigrade for at least two minutes.

Generally, you should put a turkey that weighs under 4.5kg in the oven for 45 minutes per kg, plus an extra 20 minutes. If your bird weighs between 4.5kg and 6.5kg, allow for 40 minutes per kg. Turkeys weighing over 6.5kg need 35 minutes per kg to ensure it is fully cooked.

Following these guidelines should help keep your family happy and healthy over the Christmas period.

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