Caring For A Dead Turkey
Refrigerator Thawing Times - Whole turkey:
This may come as a surprise all pet lovers -- dead turkeys do not
make good pets.
Did you know that a dead turkey requires more care than a living cat
and almost as much care as a living dog? Cats are pretty good at
almost any temperature that people are OK with -- whereas dogs are a
little more touchy. Dogs seem to do better when it's cooler. When
it's hot, dogs can get Tired Tongue Syndrome (TTS) and the panting
can especially be annoying when you're trying to watch something on
TV. So, if you're rich -or smart - have air conditioning installed.
That way, both you and the dog will be more comfortable. Cats seem
to be comfortable regardless, so they're cheaper to maintain. You
can have cats even if you're too poor for AC. I'm very familiar with
cats - I've been an observer of cats for years and I can tell you
that they spend most of their lives sleeping on something soft.
This brings me to the dead turkey. Did you know that the most
popular kind of dead turkey is a frozen dead turkey? Statistics
prove this, but I don't have those at hand right now; if you're
really interested you can google it. Anyway, dead turkeys are really
quite a lot more trouble than a living cat or dog; turkeys require a
lot more fuss.
Consider this: Did you know that a frozen dead turkey can quickly
become a semi-frozen deadly turkey if you're not careful? According
to the USDA a frozen dead turkey "left thawing on the counter more
than 2 hours is not at a safe temperature..." Even though the dead
turkey may still seem frozen, says the USDA, the outer skin of the
dead creature "is in the "Danger Zone" between 40 and 140 °F — at a
temperature where foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly. "
Dead turkeys require a lot more fussing than I thought. Cats are
quite comfortable and safe between 40 and 140 °F. Dogs? They're
pretty comfy between 40 and 80 °F. Anything hotter than that is hard
on the tongue. Dead turkeys start to become lumpy biohazards at 40
°F. This is something you need to consider carefully unless you live
in an igloo, own a Haz-Mat suit, or plan on feeding it to your
in-laws. I'm just kidding about your in-laws.
While cats and dogs can pretty much be kept wherever you have room
for them, Turkeys? Not so much. If you're thinking you'll just throw
your dead turkey in the trunk and forget it, don't. I'm serious
about this. Here's what the USDA says, and I'm not making this up:
"Frozen turkeys should not be left on the back porch, in the car
trunk, in the basement, or any place else where temperatures cannot
be constantly monitored."
So forget about keeping your frozen dead turkey on your backporch or
tossing him in the basement. Apparently government employees have
done this and gotten sick or worse. Cats are comfortable in the
basement or the back porch; dogs don't care much for basements, but
do love back porches. Don't put your cat, dog, or dead turkey in the
trunk. I put that last sentence there for PETA members. I don't like
getting hate mail - it scares me.
Despite Ben Franklin's colonial yearning to make the turkey the
national bird, dead turkeys do not make good pets. Dead turkeys are
edible though and quite good. If you decide to eat your dead gobbler
you must understand that that it can become a deadly bacterial time
bomb. In the interest of safety and in getting dead turkeys off your
potential pets list and onto your table, here are some tips for you
on how to thaw your dead frozen turkey so you won't get sick. These
tips are doubly important if you're planning on serving your dead
turkey to guests. Guests who become sick from eating your dead
turkey may not only create a mess in your home, some will become
litigious. If they do become litigious, you will become ill. So
follow these guidelines that our government has published - we pay
them a lot of money do things like this. I think it's time we got
our money's worth.
Here are the USDA's Dead Turkey Tips:
"Safe Methods for Thawing:
Immediately after grocery store checkout, take the frozen turkey
home and store it in the freezer. Frozen turkeys should not be left
on the back porch, in the car trunk, in the basement, or any place
else where temperatures cannot be constantly monitored.
Refrigerator Thawing - When thawing a turkey in the refrigerator:
* 4 to 12 pounds …… 1 to 3 days
* 12 to 16 pounds …… 3 to 4 days
* 16 to 20 pounds …… 4 to 5 days
* 20 to 24 pounds …… 5 to 6 days
A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days
before cooking. Foods thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen
without cooking but there may be some loss of quality.
Cold Water Thawing - Allow about 30 minutes per pound. First be
sure the turkey is in a leak-proof plastic bag to prevent
cross-contamination and to prevent the turkey from absorbing
water, resulting in a watery product. Submerge the wrapped
turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes
until the turkey is thawed. Cook the turkey immediately after it
Cold Water Thawing Times
* 4 to 12 pounds …… 2 to 6 hours
* 12 to 16 pounds …… 6 to 8 hours
* 16 to 20 pounds …… 8 to 10 hours
* 20 to 24 pounds …… 10 to 12 hours
A turkey thawed by the cold water method should be cooked
immediately. After cooking, meat from the turkey can be
Microwave Thawing - Follow the microwave oven manufacturer's
instruction when defrosting a turkey. Plan to cook it
immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may
become warm and begin to cook during microwaving. Holding
partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria
present wouldn't have been destroyed. A turkey thawed in the
microwave must be cooked immediately...."
I kind of like the Cold Water method the best. You have more
flexibility since you can thaw and store as opposed to the
Microwave method which gives your dead turkey hot spots. Plus
the cold water method is clean family fun. I'm sure many wives
have recommended the cold water method to their husbands. If you
like big pets and your dead turkey weighs 24 pounds for example,
you and your family could have fun for up to 12 hours changing
the dead turkey's water. If you have young children, don't make
them try to lift 24 pounds by themselves - it could cause
serious injury - which is a danger the USDA didn't mention. Help
your kids change the water and make use those 12 hours as good
quality family time.
It's interesting to note too that dogs and cats do not need
their water changed every 30 minutes which is another good
reason they make better pets than dead turkeys.
The good news is that I've never known anyone who has died from
eating a dead turkey and you don't either. I've never known anyone
who has gotten very ill from eating a dead turkey and you probably
don't either. This means our tax dollars have saved many people from
an early grave or from becoming very sick - or that turkey-dangers
On the other hand, I have known lots of people who have
gotten sleepy from eating dead turkey and ended up lying all over my
house, snoring. All of these, though sleeping, did survive. So, I'm
not sure how dangerous bacteria-laden dead turkey is, because, truth
be known, you and I and all us humans are walking bacteria
factories. Inside our body cavities.... Well, I'm not going there.
The last things you need to do before you stick your dead turkey
into your oven are:
1. Chase the dog out of the kitchen - or put him in the basement.
Dogs love turkey and you don't want your dog messing with your bird.
2. Chase your cat out of the kitchen. Cats LOVE turkey and
they'll pester you until you give them a hunk of it. Don't. Put your
cat in the garage until the turkey is safely ensconced in your oven
- on its final journey, so to speak.
3. Prepare the stuffing. I'll get into stuffing safety next time.
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