Cooking turkey to a lower internal temperature

Cooking turkey to a lower internal temperature

by Heston Blumenthal.  

According to talk in the media recently, up to 70% of our Christmas turkeys will carry salmonella and/or campylobacter, so there’ll be a lot of upset tummies around unless we cook the bird properly. And I don’t mean roasting it until all the juices and flavour have disappeared; the poor old turkey deserves better than that.

I’ve written about this before, but it seems worth repeating. All pathogens (those nasty bugs of which salmonella and campylobacter are just two) are killed if you hold the internal temperature of the turkey at 60C for a minimum of 12 minutes. You can achieve the same effect at a lower temperature, though you’d need to maintain the internal temperature for longer. (By the same token, at a higher internal temperature, it takes less time.)

What is essential is that the whole turkey is brought to that temperature and held there for at least 12 minutes. To make sure of this, you’ll need a meat thermometer to test the temperature at certain critical spots. I know I keep wittering on about meat thermometers, but I really believe them to be important. Many people rely on the gauges on their ovens, but these are unreliable; even if they are accurate, they don’t tell you what’s really important – the internal temperature.

So here are five rules to make sure you have a bug-free Christmas:

1. If your turkey has been frozen, it must be defrosted all the way through before you start cooking.

2. Invest in a meat thermometer.

3. Check your turkey at the points where the heat takes longest to penetrate (ie, the breast at the bone; where the leg meets the thigh; and the carcass covered by the thigh, where the leg is tied in against the body).

4. Make sure the internal temperature reaches 60C.

5. Hold it at 60C for at least 12 minutes.


Reproduced from the Guardian December 11th 2004

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