McDONOUGH — Whether you’re going with a traditional Thanksgiving meal or trying something a little different this year, it remains paramount that food be cooked and stored properly before and after the big celebration.
Thawing and cooking the bird
According to foodsafety.gov, there are three ways to safely to defrost your turkey. The first is to store it in the refrigerator for one to two days. Allow approximately 24 hours of thawing time for every 4-5 pounds. Keep the turkey in its original wrapper and place a pan to catch any juices that may leak.
The second is to submerge the turkey in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes, approximately 30 minutes per pound. A bird weighing 4 to 12 pounds should soak between two to six hours; 12-16 pounds between six to eight hours; 16-20 pounds between eight to 10 hours; and 20-24 pounds between 10 and 12 hours.
Finally, a turkey can be defrosted in the microwave. Remove the original wrapping and place on a microwave safe dish to catch any juices. Use the minutes per pound and power level on the microwave to determine the length of time.
No matter which way the bird is thawed, it should be cooked immediately.
Once in the oven, the turkey is not safe to eat until it reaches 165 degrees in the thickest part of the bird — breast or innermost part of the wing or thigh. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature. After removing from the oven, it’s recommended to let the turkey rest for 20 minutes to allow for easier carving.
Any items such as utensils, plates, counters and cutting boards that come in contact with raw meat should be separated and washed immediately.
It’s safe to cook a turkey while still frozen; however, USDA officials said cooking time will take at least 50% longer than if thawed. Remember to remove giblet packets before cooking.
If you’re deep frying your turkey this year, smaller birds work best — no larger than 12 pounds. The bird should be thawed. Cooking time is three to five minutes per pound. The turkey is safely cooked once it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Uncooked ham, fully cooked spiral-sliced or unsliced ham can be stored for three to five days in the refrigerator. After cooking, the meat is safe to keep for three to four days.
Thawing a ham is similar to turkey — in the refrigerator, cold water or microwave. Thawing time is four-six hours per pound.
When cooking a ham for the holidays the minimum internal temperature is 145 degrees. Allow the meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving and reheat up to at least 140 degrees.
When the meal is over, all leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours. They’re safe to eat up to four days in the refrigerator or within two to six months in the freezer.
The USDA recommends placing smaller portions of all leftovers into shallow covered containers to allow for quick cooling.
When it’s time to warm everything up again, bring sauces, soups and gravies to a rolling boil. Turkey should be rewarmed to at least 165 degrees.