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How to prepare a Thanksgiving turkey safely

KARE 11 Sunrise's Kiya Edwards met with Jess Larson, food blogger of 'plays well with butter,' to talk about safe Thanksgiving turkey preparation.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Reports of possible salmonella outbreaks in products such as ground turkey have sparked some concern in holiday chefs.

KARE 11 Sunrise's Kiya Edwards met with Jess Larson, food blogger of 'plays well with butter,' to talk about safe Thanksgiving turkey preparation.

Jess Larson collaborated with Honeysuckle White while preparing these cooking tips.

Turkey Storage and Thawing

The first step to preparing a turkey is setting up storage for the raw turkey. This step can start well before the holiday, especially if you need to thaw out a frozen turkey.

You should thaw the turkey in a refrigerator set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. The bird needs to thaw for 24 hours in a fridge for each 4-5 pounds of turkey. So if your turkey weighs 15 pounds, it would need about 3 days in the fridge.

PRO TIP: If you're in a rush, you can thaw your turkey in cold water. It takes about half an hour per pound, if you refresh your cold water regularly.

Your turkey should be in a container by itself so its juices don't drip on other foods. NEVER rinse your turkey once it's out of the package. This can spread bacteria that might already be in your kitchen.

Preparing your Kitchen

Start with a clean surface. Make sure your countertops have been scrubbed and sanitized.

Use separate cutting boards for your turkey. All other items you are preparing should go on a different cutting board so you can prevent cross-contamination.

Your hands, counters and utensils should be washed in soap and water for 20 seconds after touching raw turkey. The only way to eliminate threats of Salmonella (and other bacteria) is through proper preparation, handling, and cleaning up after meat and poultry products.

Bird Selection

Jess Larson looks for family farm-raised turkeys. Honeysuckle White now also makes it possible for shoppers in Minneapolis to trace their Thanksgiving turkey back to the farmer who raised it simply by texting or entering the on-package code.

Credit: Jennifer McCallum
A raw turkey in a roasting pan before cooking

Unpackaging the Turkey

Make sure your roasting pan is close by to avoid carrying the raw turkey far distances. Also make sure you have paper towels and a clean pair of scissors on hand.

Use the scissors to cut through any protective netting. Cut an opening down the top of the bird and start to peel away the top of the wrapper. The bottom of the wrapper will protect the bird while it's on the counter.

Lift the bird from its package with your hangs and place in your roasting pan. Pat dry with a paper towel and throw any packaging away.

Dispelling "Time-Saving" Practices

The following practices can cause serious illness and put you and your guests at risk.

1. Stuffing the turkey the night before

2. Thawing the turkey on the counter

3. Cheating the internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit

Packing Up Leftovers

Make sure you chill or freeze (or eat) your leftovers within 2 hours. Divide leftovers into smaller portions and refrigerate in shallow containers around 2 inches tall. This type of storage will make your leftovers last for up to 3-4 days.

PRO TIP: Freeze the turkey if you'd like to savor those turkey day leftovers a little bit longer!