Tips on how to cook turkey safely and how to store leftovers this Christmas

Food standards chiefs have issued guidance on safely cooking and storing turkey as millions prepare to feast on the festive bird later today.

It is estimated that around 2.4 million cases of food poisoning occur across the UK each year, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

And cooking a turkey can often throw a curveball to Scots who may not have been used to cooking it all year long.

Looking back on the past year we’ve been through, the last thing people want is to have a bad stomach after Eid.

That’s why the FSA chiefs have released a guide on what to do when cooking turkey and what you should do with your leftovers to ensure unwanted bacteria stay away.

How to cook turkey safely

The Scots have been urged not to wash a turkey before putting it in the cooker

The Scots have been urged not to wash turkey before cooking, because washing meat can spread germs on hands, clothing, utensils and work surfaces. Thorough cooking of the turkey will kill all harmful bacteria.

The instructions on packaged turkey should be followed closely. It should be noted that the cooking instructions will be based on an unstuffed bird.

If there are no cooking instructions on the turkey, the oven must be preheated to 180 ° C (or the gas mark is four).

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You must allow the following:

  • 45 minutes for 1 kg plus 20 minutes for turkeys under 4.5 kg
  • 40 minutes per kilogram of turkey weighing between 4.5 kilograms and 6.5 kilograms
  • 35 minutes per kilogram of turkey over 6.5 kilograms

Hands should be washed thoroughly after touching raw poultry. Work surfaces, cutting boards, utensils, and anything else that may have come into contact with raw meat should also be cleaned.

It is not recommended to cook the filling inside the turkey, it should be cooked on a separate roasting tray.

Stuffed turkey takes longer to cook and may not cook well if it does not reach the correct temperature.

You need to make sure that the turkey is warmed up and cooked through completely.

The FSA adds: “If you don’t have a meat thermometer or temperature probe, cut the thickest part of the meat off, making sure there is no pink and any juices are pure. In a whole bird, the thickest part of the meat is the area between the leg and the breast.”

The FSA recommends using a temperature probe to check if meat is cooked

If you have a temperature probe, check the thickest part of the meat. You must meet the following combinations to ensure they are cooked properly:

  • 60°C for 45 minutes
  • 65°C for 10 minutes
  • 70°C for 2 minutes
  • 75°C for 30 seconds
  • 80°C for 6 seconds

The temperature probe should also be cleaned after each use to avoid cross-contamination.

What do you do with leftovers?

Leftovers should be refrigerated and covered before placing in the refrigerator or freezer within 1 to 2 hours.

Freezing cooked turkey is completely safe, but its quality deteriorates after three to six months.

Once thawed, leftovers should be eaten within 24 hours.


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