It’s almost Thanksgiving Day, the most food-celebrated holiday across the nation. We celebrate this gratuitous day by eating, with the centerpiece for our meal being that of the turkey. Thanksgiving was established in 1621by the pilgrims as a way to celebrate a successful harvest. The occasion was noted by eating for 3 days and the turkey served as the meat and the symbol because of its preference among Native Americans.
Turkey, or Meleagris gallopavo, is a wild bird. It is hunted and used for meat year-round. Turkey is poultry and can take hours to cook thoroughly which may explain why individuals prefer to serve it only on Thanksgiving Day. There are concerns about not only turkey but poultry in general as to its safety in the event it is undercooked.
Is it safe to eat turkey when it is pink on the inside? For most Americans, if we see pink in meat, we become alarmed and declare the meat to be undone. However, “the color of cooked poultry is not always a sure sign of its safety. Only by using a food thermometer can one accurately determine that poultry has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F throughout the product. Turkey can remain pink even after cooking to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F. The meat of smoked turkey is always pink.” www.fsis.usda.gov
So why pink? Pinkness occurs “when gases in the atmosphere of a heated gas or electric oven react chemically with hemoglobin in the meat tissues to give poultry a pink tinge. They are the same substances that give red color to smoked hams and other cured meats.” www.fsis.usda.gov
On Thanksgiving Day, my turkey has pink inside should I panic? Maybe – may be not – it really depends on the temperature of the cooked turkey. It is always best to cook turkey thoroughly as there is a possibility of salmonella. In most meats, salmonella can occur if mistreated or undercooked. The best way to ensure non-salmonella infection is to check your turkey with a meat thermometer. Do not cook in a hurry; be prepared to wait a few hours to ensure adequate time. In order to kill bacteria, you need to be patient and use appropriate temperature based on the size of the turkey. Also, put the thermometer in the deepest, thickest part of the turkey. Most turkeys come with thermometer inserted. Once considered done, let your turkey rest on stove top or table for at least 30 minutes.
Poultry can dry out if overcooked, so the use of the thermometer becomes even more important. Watchful waiting is best when cooking your turkey. Allow enough time to cook. Enjoy your family and friends and be thankful for the gift of having food and being able to cook. Happy Thanksgiving!