Almost 80% of Northern Ireland’s home cooks admit to not knowing the correct temperature their Christmas turkey must reach to be cooked safely, new research by safefood has revealed.

The poll of over 300 adults across Northern Ireland has also revealed that over half of festive home chefs (57%) were concerned about overcooking their turkey and serving it dry (37%) or undercooking the turkey and it not being safe to eat (20%).

Eight in 10 adults in Northern Ireland plan on cooking a roast turkey as their festive meat of choice on the dining table this Christmas.

The research was commissioned by safefood as the all-island food safety body encourages festive home cooks to ‘Trust the Meat Thermometer’ this Christmas. Using a meat thermometer takes the guesswork out of cooking Christmas dinner and ensures a safe and tasty turkey.

A Christmas turkey, or any other meat that needs to be cooked all the way through, should be cooked to 75 degrees Celsius. Using a meat thermometer is the fool proof way to guarantee your turkey is cooked properly this Christmas.

Previous safefood research revealed that less than 2% of people followed all the basic food safety checks for ensuring meat is safely cooked.

Dr Linda Gordon, Chief Specialist, Food Science, safefood said: “You will know your turkey is cooked and ready to eat when you take it out of the oven and pop the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the meat between the breast and leg and it reaches 75 degrees Celsius. For poultry like turkey, chicken and other meat joints, it is important that they are cooked until piping hot, with no pink meat and the juices running clear.

“Our website www.safefood.net has lots of practical tips and advice for this Christmas including how long to defrost a frozen turkey, what size turkey you might need and how to deal with leftovers. More than 150,000 people visited the site last year between December 24th and 25th.”

safefood has teamed up with Radio Presenter, Jordan Humphries and local Head Chef, Ben Arnold to launch their ‘Trust the Meat Thermometer’ Christmas food safety campaign to help take the stress out of cooking Christmas dinner.

Jordan and Ben say: “Christmas dinner is without a doubt our favourite meal of the year and we’ve teamed up with safefood to ensure our local cooks serve the tastiest and safest Christmas feast to family and friends.

“The most important thing is that you enjoy the day, so don’t put yourself under too much pressure to cook overly complicated recipes. Plan everything out beforehand and stick to that plan.

“Use a meat thermometer and take the guess work out of cooking your Christmas Turkey – it really does add that extra layer of reassurance.”

safefood’s Top Tips for Cooking the Perfect Christmas Dinner

· Get your fridge ready – Ahead of the festive rush give your fridge a good clean with warm soapy water and re-arrange the shelves to make space for your turkey. Fruit, vegetables and soft drinks (except fruit juices) can be stored in a cool dark space to make extra room.

· How much turkey do you need? Don’t buy too big a turkey. Think about how many people you’re cooking for (children eat less than adults) and whether you want any leftovers. There’s a handy guide on safefood.net

· Give yourself enough time to defrost If your turkey is frozen, give yourself enough time to defrost it prior to cooking – it can take up to 24 hours for every 2-2.5kg. Defrost your turkey on dish or tray on the bottom shelf of the fridge. You’ll know it’s completely thawed when the body is soft, the legs can be moved and there are no ice crystals in the cavity.

· Don’t wash your turkey – Do not wash your turkey as this can spread harmful bacteria to your sink and kitchen surfaces – proper cooking will actually kill any bacteria present.

· How long to cook your turkey? Raw poultry and meat can contain bacteria like Salmonella and Campylobacter, so it’s important to cook these foods until piping hot, with no pink meat and the juices run clear. Using a meat thermometer adds that extra level of reassurance – just pop the thermometer in the thickest part of the turkey between the leg and the breast; when it reaches 75 degrees Celsius, then it’s safely cooked and ready to enjoy. There’s a handy cooking time calculator on safefood.net

· What about stuffing? For stuffed turkeys cooked in a fan oven, you should allow extra cooking time and it is essential you check the stuffing itself is piping hot all the way through. Use safefood’s turkey cooking time calculator at www.safefood.net/christmas. For any other oven types, cook stuffing separately in a suitable dish.

· How to store leftovers Cover any leftovers and place in the fridge within two hours of cooking. Once in the fridge, any leftovers should be eaten within three days.

· Freezing meats If freezing leftover meat or poultry, wrap well and make sure it is stored in a suitable container for freezing. Freeze cooked meat for no more than 6 months approx.

· Only re-heat food once! When re-heating food, ensure it is piping hot all the way throughout. Make sure food is only re-heated once!

For more information, visit www.safefood.net/christmas or follow safefood on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

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