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Q: thawing a turkey ( No Answer,   4 Comments )
Subject: thawing a turkey
Category: Family and Home > Food and Cooking
Asked by: chriscanuck-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 08 Oct 2005 22:33 PDT
Expires: 07 Nov 2005 21:33 PST
Question ID: 578104
I'm preparing to cook my first turkey (13 lbs).  I put the frozen
turkey (still in it's original packaging) on the kitchen counter at
room temperature to thaw for most of the day.  I was then told that
the proper way to thaw the turkey was to place it in the refridgerator
or to submerge it in cold water and that thawing at room temperature
could promote bacterial growth.  So  -  the turkey is now in the
fridge.  My question:  after spending the day thawing at room
temperature, will the turkey still be okay to eat?
There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Answer
From: brianhoward-ga on 08 Oct 2005 22:41 PDT
We've unthawed ours on the counter for years, and we're all still living! ;)

It will still be safe, in fact, bacteria still can grow inside your
fridge or cold water, but just not as rapidly. Cooking kills most if
not all bacteria.

Here is a chart:
Subject: Re: thawing a turkey
From: jago8-ga on 09 Oct 2005 06:17 PDT
Is unthawing the same as freezing? ;-)

Seriously, I would certainly still eat it.  Specially as you still had
it wrapped.  Maybe if it was unwrapped, the room was hot and full of
flies, and the dog had pulled ti down onto the floor, my thoughts
would have been different.......
Subject: Re: thawing a turkey
From: chromedome-ga on 09 Oct 2005 09:18 PDT
Hi, Chris...and Happy Thanksgiving from a fellow Canuck.

As Brianhoward-ga pointed out, many people do thaw their turkeys at
room temp and are none the worse for it.  It's not the best or safest
practice, but isn't necessarily going to make you sick.

The pathogens (disease-bearing micro-organisms) present in foods are
most active and able to reproduce at temperatures between 40F and 140F
(4C-60C).  Above and below those temperatures, they do not reproduce
well; and after extended freezing or cooking to a suitable temperature
(see the chart already cited) they will be killed.  Some pathogens,
unfortunately, produce toxins which are *not* destroyed at those
temperatures, which is why botulism is such a nasty thing.  With your
turkey, though, that's not an issue.

Defrosting in your refrigerator, then, keeps the bird at something
close to a safe temperature throughout the whole process.   Defrosting
a still-sealed bird in water (keep the water circulating the whole
time, by leaving a small trickle running into your sink/tub/pot) is
faster, and in many cases can be accomplished within the four-hour
guideline, but it's still a bit of a cheat.

The rule we observe in the professional kitchen is to restrict foods
to four hours or less in that "danger zone" of temperatures. 
Restaurants maintain their foods at temperatures above 140F or cool
them rapidly to below 40F, and these temperatures are checked
rigorously by health inspectors in the course of going about their

In this particular instance, given the mass of a turkey, the middle of
the bird would still have been well frozen, and helped the rest of the
bird stay cool.  Furthermore salmonella, your most likely contaminant,
is confined to the surfaces of the bird.  So, if you want to improve
your safety margin before cooking the bird, wash it thoroughly inside
and out with well-salted water before proceeding.  Salt has
antibacterial properties, and will reduce the population of
naturally-occurring pathogens on your bird.  In fact, if you have a
suitably-sized pot or tub, you may wish to leave the turkey in the
brine for a couple of hours before roasting it; a technique which will
leave it more flavourful and juicy.

Oh, and one last thing...traditional or not, don't cook the stuffing
inside the turkey.  Put in some onions or garlic, or a couple sprigs
of herbs, if you wish to flavour the turkey itself; and cook the
dressing on the side in a loaf pan or cake pan (you can ladle
drippings over it, to get the flavour).  Baking the stuffing in the
bird guarantees that, by the time the stuffing has reached a food-safe
temperature, the bird will be sadly overcooked and dry.

Good luck, and enjoy your turkey,

-Chromedome (restaurant cook)
Subject: Re: thawing a turkey
From: londonkenton-ga on 26 Oct 2005 14:51 PDT
4 hours is a good rule for a maximum time in the 05oc-63oc danger zone

Bacteria doubles in size every 20 minutes and is only at a safe level
before the 4hr mark.

Take into acount thawing time and also the cooking time between cold and cooked.

It is not safe to eat your turkey because as the turkey as a whole
will still be frozen inside after most of the day defrosting on the
counter  you have to think about each part of the turkey.

Say for instance one section of skin, it defrosted first and has been
defrosted at room temperature all day. This part will have had
bacteria doubling every 20 minutes all day.

you will then slowly warm it in an oven where it will take a
cosiderable amount of time to reach the 70oc bacteria kill temp.

discard it to be safe and defrost in a controlled temp lower than 50c,
fridge or cold water.

People are usually ok because the cooking process kills most of the
bacteria but only most.

hope it helps

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