With the festive season rapidly approaching, the food team have produced some poultry advice, which will help to protect your family and friends this Christmas from food poisoning.
If your turkey is frozen make sure it is thoroughly defrosted before you cook it. If your turkey has not thawed properly the centre of the turkey will not reach a temperature high enough to kill the food poisoning bacteria inside of it.
Before you start cooking make sure there are no ice crystals in the cavity. You could also test the thicker parts of the turkey with a folk, to tell whether the meat feels frozen.
It is very important to work out the defrosting time in advance, so you know how much time to allow. Remember large turkeys can take a couple of days to defrost.
When you start defrosting, take the turkey out of it's packaging, put it on a large dish and cover. Remove the giblets and the neck as soon as possible, because this speeds up thawing.
Put the dish in a cool, clean place (ideally the fridge) where the turkey won't touch other foods. Ensure the turkey is placed at the bottom of the fridge to prevent cross contamination.
If it isn't possible to defrost your turkey in the fridge, you could use a cool room, or a garage. Keep the turkey covered and make sure that pets and young children are kept away. Remember that the temperature of the place where the turkey is kept will affect thawing times.
To work out the defrosting time for your turkey, you should check the packaging [manufacturers instructions].
If there are no instructions on your turkey we would recommend you use the Food standards agency defrosting guide which is available on the Food Standards Agency website. You can use this guide to give you a rough estimate of how long it will take to defrost your turkey.
When your turkey is fully defrosted, put it in the fridge until you are ready to cook it. If this isn't possible make sure you cook it immediately
Wash your hands with hot water and soap before and after handling the turkey or any other raw meat to avoid cross contamination.
There is no need to wash your turkey washing your turkey or any other poultry can splash harmful bacteria around your kitchen leading to cross- contamination of other foods.
Always clean worktops, chopping boards, dishes and utensils thoroughly after they have touched raw poultry preferably with an antibacterial spray.
Never use the same chopping board for raw poultry and ready to eat ready to eat food without washing it thoroughly in warm soapy water. (If possible use separate chopping boards for raw and ready to eat food).
How long to cook
These cooking times are based on an unstuffed bird. It's better to cook your stuffing in a separate roasting tin, rather than inside the bird, so it will cook more easily and cooking guidelines will be more accurate. (If you cook your bird with the stuffing inside, you will need to allow extra time for the amount of stuffing and allow for the fact that it cooks more slowly.)
Remember some ovens, such as fan-assisted ovens, might cook the bird more quickly – check the manufacturer's handbook for your oven if you can. Always check that the meat is cooked thoroughly before serving.
As a general guide, in an oven preheated to 180ºC (350ºF, Gas Mark 4):
- for a turkey under 4.5kg, allow 45 minutes per kg plus 20 minutes
- for a turkey weighing between 4.5kg and 6.5kg, allow 40 minutes per Kg.
- for a turkey over 6.5kg, allow 35 minutes per Kg
Tip: Cover your turkey with foil during cooking and uncover for the last 30 minutes to brown the skin. To stop the meat drying out, baste it every hour during cooking.
|Weight including stuffing||Thawing Time||Cooking Time|
|2.2kg/5lb||20 hours ||1.5 hours |
|4.5kg/10lb||22-24 hours||3 hours|
|6.75kg/15lb||24-28 hours||4.5 hours|
|9kg/20lb||40- 48 hours||6 hours|
|11.25kg/25lb||48+ hours||7.5 hours|
Other birds, such as goose and duck, need different cooking times and temperatures. The Food Standards Agency website have produced a handy guide to help you cook your poultry.
It's very important to keep cooked meat and poultry in the fridge. If they are left out at room temperature, food poisoning bacteria can grow and multiply. So, after you have carved your turkey (or other bird), cool any leftovers as quickly as possible (within one to two hours), cover them and put them in the fridge. If you are re heating leftover turkey, or other food, always make sure it is steaming hot all the way through before you eat it. Don't re-heat more than once. Ideally try and use any leftovers within 48 hours.