Turkey Safety

A few years ago when I was in school for nutrition, I took a course in food safety.  We happened to be learning about proper thawing and cooking techniques for turkey right around Thanksgiving time, and one of them involved the possibility of food poisoning from stuffing cooked inside a turkey. Most of us had not heard about this, and sure enough, when we returned from the Thanksgiving holiday, one of my classmates had gotten food poisoning from the stuffing at her relative’s meal!

A roast turkey prepared for a traditional U.S....

A roast turkey prepared for a traditional U.S. Thanksgiving meal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


No one wants to make their guests sick, and of course no one would do this on purpose.  But there are a lot of food safety protocols for cooking turkeys that just aren’t widely known.  Many people learn from their mothers, who learned from their mothers, and so on.  Well, the meat was probably a little cleaner and safer back then, and unfortunately in today’s world, we need to take some extra precautions to make sure our turkeys are handled safely.  Here are a few turkey safety tips, and a wish for a happy, healthy, and very delicious Thanksgiving holiday.

  • Turkeys must be kept at safe temperatures during thawing. The danger zone for food is between 40 and 140° F.  Food that is kept between these temperatures for any period of time run the risk of bacteria multiplying rapidly, and the food becoming unsafe to eat.  There are 3 safe ways to thaw a turkey:
    • In the refrigerator.  Allow 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of turkey.  Place the turkey in a container so the juices do not drip on other foods.  A refrigerator thawed turkey may remain thawed in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before cooking.
    • In a cold water bath.  Place the sealed turkey in a large container of COLD water and change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed.  Allow about 30 minutes per pound, and cook the turkey as soon as it is thawed.
    • In the microwave.  Follow microwave instructions for thawing a turkey.  The turkey must be cooked immediately after microwave thawing because some areas of the turkey may have gotten warm in the thawing process.  I DO NOT recommend this type of thawing except in an emergency because microwave cooking is so uneven.
  • Prevent cross contamination.  I know I talked about this a couple of weeks ago but let me reiterate.  All hands, cutting boards, knives and other surfaces that come into contact with raw meat or poultry should be washed thoroughly with soap and water before contacting any other foods.
  • Keep your stuffing safe.  It is optimal to cook stuffing in a dish outside of the turkey.  If you choose to cook stuffing inside your turkey, place the stuffing inside the turkey just before cooking, and use a food thermometer to ensure that the center of the stuffing reaches at least 165° F.  Any part of the stuffing that does not reach this temperature carries a risk of bacteria that can cause food poisoning.  This is serious and how my friend from school got sick!!
  • Cook safely.  Make sure the turkey is completely thawed, and set oven temperatures no lower than 325°F.  The meatiest parts of the turkey should reach a minimum internal temperature of 165°F.  Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before removing the stuffing and carving the meat.


The recipe for this week comes from Chef Ann Cooper.  These Cornmeal Apple Griddle Cakes were yummy little pancakes, and I even used gluten-free flour and they came out great.  They were delicious with our Vermont Maple Syrup on top, but I didn’t feel like they were apple-y enough.  Next time I would probably add some cinnamon or apple pie spice to the mix.


Gluten Free Banana Chia Pancakes


Well, it is just a bonanza of successful cooking over here this weekend!  I guess that what a rainy weekend with no big plans will do…

My son is a big fan of pancakes, so I usually use the 365 Whole Wheat Buttermilk pancake mix and make a big batch for the freezer once every week or so.  We have him on a dairy free trial right now though, so I couldn’t use the mix because it has buttermilk in it.  This morning I thought I would just make a batch of pancakes from scratch without dairy.  So I mixed up all the wet ingredients and then realized I had no regular flour in the house.  Doh!  I did have some gluten-free all purpose flour, but most of the gluten free recipes call for xanthan gum as a binder and thickener, which I didn’t have either.

Thinking quickly, I decided to try chia seeds (read about the health benefits of chia seeds) in place of the xanthan gum due to their ability to thicken and bind..total experiment…and it worked out great!! As long as you don’t mind the little seeds in your pancakes, they don’t change the texture much at all, which was a nice surprise.  They were lightweight and very flavorful with a hint of coconut from the oil (read about the health benefits of coconut oil).  You might leave out the sugar if you are going to eat them with syrup though, as they came out a bit sweet. But I like ‘em like that just straight up!

Gluten-Free Banana Chia Pancakes

Adapted from Basic Pancakes, Everyday Food, September 2006

1 banana, mashed

2 Tbsp coconut oil, butter, or other vegetable oil

1 large egg

1 cup milk or dairy-free milk**

1 tsp vanilla

1 Tbsp chia seeds

1 cup gluten-free all purpose flour* (I used trader joe’s)

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 Tbsp sugar

¼ tsp salt

1/4 tsp cinnamon

Melt the coconut oil or butter.  Add the mashed banana, egg, milk, vanilla, and chia seeds.  Whisk together until well combined. Let mixture stand 10-15 minutes for the chia seeds to soften and thicken the mixture.

Add other ingredients and whisk until just combined.  Heat a griddle or frying pan over medium heat.  Lightly oil frying pan with an oiled paper towel.  Spoon mixture into pan and cook 1-2 minutes, until bubbles form on the surface of the pancake.


Flip and cook 1-2 minutes more, until lightly browned on both sides.  Serve as is or with pure maple syrup.

*If your gluten free flour mix contains xanthan gum, omit the chia seeds, as the mixture may become too thick.

**If you are using a solid fat like coconut oil or butter, let your milk come to room temperature first so the fat doesn’t clump up