Under the heading “Don’t Try This At Home,” comes this photo of actress Zooey Deschanel, star of the new Fox TV sitcom “New Girl,” trying unsuccessfully to defrost a Thanksgiving turkey in the dryer on a recent episode.
Obviously, her character is meant to be clueless, but thawing that gigantic poultry cannonball in time to cook it for the holiday feast is a common problem — and a potential source of food-borne illness.
Because most of us only have to thaw that big bird once a year, we may need a refresher on the safest methods to make sure no one gets ill from unsafe bacteria this Thanksgiving.
According to the USDA’s food safety guide:
There are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave oven. A frozen turkey left thawing on the counter (or the back porch or the basement or the car trunk) more than two hours is not at a safe temperature.
USAToday also summed up the government’s three safest methods to defrost a frozen bird:
1) In the refrigerator. Plan on 24 hours of thawing for each four to five pounds of turkey. A 12-pounder can take three days, a 20-pound turkey can take five days. Once thawed, the turkey can remain in the refrigerator up to two days before being cooked.
2) In a sink filled with cold water. The turkey needs to be wrapped in its original plastic bag. Change the water frequently to keep it cold; you will need 30 minutes in the water per pound. (A 12-pound bird will take six hours.)
3) In the microwave. Check the manufacturer’s directions for thawing a turkey. A microwave-thawed turkey should be cooked immediately.
If you stuff your turkey, you need to cook it immediately after inserting the stuffing.
Cook the turkey to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees on a food thermometer. For a stuffed turkey, that means the stuffing must be 165 degrees as well.
No matter what the question, you can call the USDA toll-free hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854).
There’s also that other reliable standby, the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line at 1-800BUTTERBALL (1-800-288-8372), open through December. You can also email them at email@example.com.
Photo credits: spoilertv.co.uk (Zooey Deschanel, top), Sami Sarkis/Getty Images (dryer, above)