More than two-thirds (66 per cent) of Brits will tuck into a turkey dinner this Christmas according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), but regardless of how good your culinary skills are, food poisoning can happen to anyone.
In fact, Campylobacter, the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK, has over 280,000 cases confirmed every year, leaving a dinner party with a dodgy stomach is something no one wants to receive this Christmas. If you plan on cooking a roast turkey dinner, follow these essential tips from the FSA to make a safe (and delicious) roast.
When you buy your turkey make sure you minimise the chances of cross contamination by transporting the bird in a separate shopping bag from the fresh fruit and vegetables. Cross-contamination can also be spread by washing the turkey. Doing so will spread germs onto your hands, kitchen worktop and utensils and should be avoided at all costs. If you do touch the raw meat, remember to wash your hands thoroughly to avoid spreading the bacteria.
A fresh turkey needs to be kept in cool conditions to stop bacteria spreading. Ensure your fridge is below 5°C and keep the turkey stored on the bottom shelf, separate from fresh fruit and vegetables.
If you plan on cooking a frozen turkey, make sure you give it plenty of time to defrost – some birds could take as long as four days to thaw out. The FSA recommends giving it 10-12 hours (per kg) if you are defrosting it in a fridge at 4°C (39°F), or 3-4 hours (per kg) if the bird is being defrosted in a cool room with a temperature below 17.5°C (64°F).
No matter how many times you’ve cooked Christmas dinner, it’s easy to lose track of the time when you’re preparing an entire festive meal, so set a timer and follow the cooking instructions on the packaging to determine how long your turkey will take to cook.
If there aren’t any instructions (or you’ve accidentally binned them) the FSA advises as a general guide (in an oven preheated to 180ºC/350ºF, Gas Mark 4): 45 minutes per kg plus 20 minutes for a turkey under 4.5kg; 40 minutes per kg for a turkey that’s between 4.5kg and 6.5kg; or 35 minutes per kg for a turkey weighing more than 6.5kg. Once cooked the turkey must be steaming hot throughout, with meat juices running clear. It should have absolutely no pink meat visible when you cut into the thickest part of the meat.
Nothing beats a turkey sandwich on Boxing Day, so save your leftovers after dinner. Leftovers should be cooled then put into the fridge within 1-2 hours and then eaten within two days. If you’ve decided to freeze the leftovers, they must be properly defrosted then reheated so they are piping hot before serving.
Visit www.food.gov.uk for more cooking tips and advice.