It’s that time of year when you are bombarded with posts and emails about food safety and Thanksgiving dinner. Most of it is excellent advice. However, today I saw a post from a popular site about thawing your turkey. The post mentioned several methods of thawing, including submersed in a pan, under running water that is 70°F or below. However, it neglected to mention that if at anytime the exterior of the turkey goes above 41°F for more than 4 hours you should discard.
Using running water to thaw even a small turkey is not going to happen in under 4 hours. This would leave the exterior of the bird in the temperature danger zone (41°F – 135°F) for a period long enough to support the growth of certain bacteria associated with turkey like, Campylobacter jejuni, Clostridium perfringens, Escherichia coli O157:H7(E. coli), Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, Shigella and Staphyloccocus aureus. Some of these bacteria can form spores or toxins that will not be destroyed by normal cooking temperatures. You and your guests will likely suffer the consequences.
The CDC mentions that one method of thawing could be in a leakproof bag in cold water in your sink and changing the water every 30 minutes. Okay, I understand what they are suggesting, use cold water, the frozen bird will most likely keep the water below 41°F. But at what point after the bird is almost thawed and the water temperature rises thereby causing the surface to rise above 41°F? Furthermore, it is likely that your turkey has bacteria, why risk the risk of cross contamination during the changing of the water every 30 minutes. This is the same reason we do not rinse our poultry. Remember, if you are in a restaurant, this is not an approved method of thawing.
So, although thawing under running water is great for smaller items like shrimp, it should never be used as a thawing method for larger items. Be safe, plan ahead, and do it under refrigeration. Plan on 24 hours of thawing time for every 5 pounds.
Have a wonderful Holiday and always be food safe!