Have a healthy Christmas and make sure you cook your turkey properly

Published December 21, 2017 at 13:34

Christmas is the time of year when people get together at the dinner table and enjoy a family meal together. NHS Blackburn with Darwen and NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are reminding those who are hosting, to make sure you cook your turkey properly.

Firstly, if you buy a frozen turkey make sure you defrost it properly before you cook it. It is preferred if the turkey is defrosted in the fridge or somewhere cool in a dish or container so that all the juices can be drained.  This will stop the bacteria from spreading.

You can also follow this defrosting checklist:

  • Work out defrosting time in advance, so you know how much time to allow. It can take at least a couple of days for a large turkey to thaw.
  • When you start defrosting, take the turkey out of its packaging, put it on a large dish and cover it. The dish will hold the liquid that comes out while thawing.
  • Remove the giblets and neck as soon as possible to speed up the thawing process. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling any part of the raw turkey.
  • Before cooking, make sure there aren’t any ice crystals in the turkey’s/poultry’s cavity. Test the thicker parts of the turkey with a fork to check if the meat feels frozen.
  • Turkey (and any other poultry) is best defrosted in a covered dish at the bottom of the fridge so that it can’t drip onto other foods.
  • Pour away the liquid that comes out of the defrosting turkey regularly to stop it overflowing and spreading bacteria. Be careful not to splash the liquid onto worktops, dishes, cloths or other food.
  • Bear in mind what else you have stored in the fridge. Cooked meats and other ready-to-eat foods should be covered and stored higher up.
  • If the bird is too big for the fridge, put it somewhere out of reach from animals and children, and where it won’t touch other foods. A cool room, shed or garage are all good places.
  • If you’re not using the fridge, watch out for sudden changes in room temperature, as they could prevent the turkey from thawing evenly.


Dr Preeti Shukla, Clinical Lead at both Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) said:

 Bacteria can spread from meat and poultry to worktops, chopping boards and dishes very easily. It is therefore very important that you wash the chopping board thoroughly with warm soapy water before using it for other ready to eat foods.

Another very important rule to remember is to allow enough time for the turkey to cook properly. A larger turkey can take a lot longer to be cooked thoroughly.  An undercooked turkey or poultry will lead to food poisoning.


There are three ways you can check if you have cooked your turkey or poultry properly:

  • the meat is steaming hot all the way through
  • there’s no pink meat when you cut into the thickest part of the bird
  • the juices run clear when you pierce the turkey/poultry or press the thigh

Once you have cooked your Christmas turkey, try to store the leftovers in a fridge as soon as possible (within 90 minutes).   Leaving it at room temperature will only increase the risk of the bacteria growing and multiplying.

For further information visit:

NHS Choices website: https://www.nhs.uk/pages/home.aspx.





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