Food & Cooking

Irish survey shows gaps in turkey cooking knowledge

More than three-quarters of Irish people don’t know the correct temperature to cook their turkey, according to a survey.

Among respondents in the Republic of Ireland, 27 percent were concerned about undercooking the turkey and being sure it was safe to eat while 7 percent were worried about overcooking and serving it dry.

The survey was commissioned by safefood with Empathy Research. It was done online in November across a nationally representative sample of 1,036 adults over the age of 18.

Past safefood research has found people are unsure when asked what temperature turkey should be cooked to, with responses ranging from 30 to 260 degrees C (86 to 500 degrees F). The safe cooking temperature for all poultry products is 165 degrees F, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Whether thawing frozen turkey or storing thawed turkey, it should be kept on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so any drips won’t land on other food and spread germs. Rinsing turkey or chicken should not be done as it only spreads bacteria around the kitchen. Proper cooking will destroy bacteria and other pathogens.

Promoting use of meat thermometers
Research did show that ownership of meat thermometers is increasing and the group’s Christmas campaign is encouraging people to use a meat thermometer when having turkey, poultry or any meat product that needs to be cooked all the way through.

Other tips and advice include how long to defrost a frozen turkey, what size bird you might need and how to deal safely with leftovers.

Gary Kearney, director of food science at safefood, said Christmas dinner is one of the most anticipated meals of the year.

“If there’s one item to bring to your Christmas kitchen, it’s a trusty meat thermometer. Take your turkey out of the oven and pop the thermometer in the thickest part between the leg and breast. When it reaches 75 degrees C (167 degrees F) it’s cooked and ready to eat. Using a meat thermometer adds an extra layer of reassurance.”

While turkey and ham remained the main cooked meats on Christmas day at 72 percent and 60 percent respectively, 17 percent of people will cook beef, 16 percent will do chicken and 8 percent will have a meat-free Christmas dinner, according to survey results.

Gareth Mullins, head chef at The Marker Hotel and safefood campaign ambassador, said cooking during the holiday season can be difficult.

“Cooking Christmas dinner, for some, can be the most stressful meal of the year as you want it to be as delicious as possible but with so many ingredients and different timings to manage it can be tricky. So, I’d encourage anyone cooking Christmas dinner this year to buy a meat thermometer. They are affordable, easy to use, and are the fail-safe way of making sure your meat is cooked,” Mullins said.

Northern Irish results
Almost 80 percent of Northern Ireland’s home cooks also don’t know the correct temperature to cook turkey, according to safefood research.

The poll of more than 300 adults in Northern Ireland revealed that more than half of home chefs were concerned about overcooking their turkey while 37 percent were worried about serving it dry and 20 percent about undercooking the turkey and it not being safe to eat.

Linda Gordon, chief specialist of food science at safefood, said cooking a turkey at Christmas can frustrate even the most confident of home cooks.

“To help you cook that perfect roast turkey this year, without any of the guesswork, make sure you have a trusty meat thermometer in your Christmas kitchen. Whatever cooking method, timings or recipes you use; you will know your turkey is cooked and ready to eat when you take it out of the oven and pop the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the meat between the breast and leg and it reaches 75 degrees C (167 degrees F),” Gordon said.

Safefood teamed up with radio presenter, Jordan Humphries and local head chef Ben Arnold on the campaign.

“The most important thing is that you enjoy the day, so don’t put yourself under too much pressure to cook overly complicated recipes. Plan everything out beforehand and stick to that plan. Use a meat thermometer and take the guess work out of cooking your Christmas turkey – it really does add that extra layer of reassurance. It will help you avoid serving up food that isn’t cooked properly and making Christmas unforgettable for all the wrong reasons,” said Humphries and Arnold.

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