Food poisoning is a sure-fire way to ruin Christmas for all the family. Each year the UK sees around 280,000 cases of illness,many of which are caused by contaminated poultry, including turkey. We asked the Food Standards Agency for instructions on how best to cook a turkey and avoid the spread of the harmful bacteria that causes upset tummies. 

Turkey, mince pies, Christmas pudding… Everyone knows Christmas just would not be complete without the food. However, poultry is one of the top causes of food poisoning. Children under five and older people are most at risk because of weaker immune systems, which isn’t ideal when you have the whole family over!

Top turkey tips

  1. When doing your big supermarket shop, make sure raw and ready-to-eat food is packed separately to avoid cross contamination. Remember to pack plenty of plastic bags!
  2. If your turkey is frozen, make sure you check the guidance on the packaging to ensure you have enough time to fully defrost it.
  3. Always defrost the turkey in a container large enough to catch any juices.
  4. Keep raw food covered and chilled on the bottom shelf of the fridge, and regularly check that the fridge is cold enough.
  5. Your fridge should always be below 5° Fridge dials aren’t always accurate, so use a fridge thermometer (you can buy one from larger supermarkets, home stores and online).
  6. Don’t wash raw meat – it splashes germs onto your hands, clothes, utensils and worktops! Thorough cooking will kill any bacteria present.
  7. Avoid cross-contamination by using different utensils, plates and chopping boards for ready-to-eat food and raw food.
  8. Always check that the meat is steaming hot throughout, there is no pink meat visible when you cut into the thickest part, and that the meat juices run clear.
  9. Cool any leftovers at room temperature, then cover them and ensure they go into the fridge or freezer within one to two hours.
  10. If you freeze cooked meats, once defrosted, eat the food within 24 hours.

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A useful defrosting guide:

  • In a fridge at 4°C, allow around 10 to 12 hours per kg (remember that not all fridges will be this temperature).
  • In a cool room (below 17.5°C) allow approximately 3 to 4 hours per kg, or longer if the room is particularly cold.

The experts say:

“Remember the 4 ‘Cs’ of food hygiene: Chilling, Cleaning, Cooking and avoiding Cross-contamination.”

Top-Time Saving Tip:

Cook your turkey the week before the big day. Once your turkey is cooked and cooled, slice and batch it into portions to store in the freezer. Then take out and reheat the amount you need on Christmas day.

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