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12 tips for a healthier Christmas

1. Be fridge ready

Get your fridge ready for the festive season by:

  • Giving it a good clean with warm soapy water 
  • Rearranging the shelves to make room for your turkey
  • Storing your turkey in a covered dish on the bottom shelf so drips won’t land on ready to eat foods which could spread germs leaving these foods unsafe to eat
  • Throw away any food past their use-by date
  • For extra fridge space, store vegetables and drinks (except milk & fruit juices) in a cool place

Give yourself enough time to defrost your turkey. Allow 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds / 2-2.5kg. If you’ve a 7.5kg / 15lb turkey, it will take up to three days to defrost so you should start defrosting on December 22nd. The best way to defrost it is to place it on a dish or tray on the bottom shelf of your fridge.

2. Buy the right turkey

When deciding on the size of your turkey, think of how many people you’re cooking for and whether you want any leftovers. Remember children eat less than adults. Based on the number of people you’re feeding, you can calculate the size of the turkey you need. If you’re unsure, ask your butcher.

3. Defrosting time

You know it's completely defrosted when:

  • the body is soft
  • the legs can be moved
  • there are no ice crystals inside the cavity

4. Never wash the bird

Don’t wash your turkey as this splashes food poisoning bacteria around your kitchen through drips, drops and splashes. If you do need to clean the turkey, wipe it with a disposable paper towel, discarding the used paper towel and any packaging directly in to the bin. Handle your turkey as little as possible and always wash your hands and surfaces thoroughly with warm soapy water.

5. Cooking your turkey

To prevent Salmonella and Campylobacter food poisoning you should check the turkey is cooked thoroughly. 

Use our Turkey cooking time calculator to find out the cooking time for your turkey.

6. Get stuffed

Only cook a stuffed turkey in a fan oven. For other types of ovens cook your stuffing in a separate dish. safefood research shows that when a turkey is stuffed, it is the centre of the stuffing that is slowest to cook. So with stuffed turkeys, it is essential you check the stuffing itself is piping hot all the way through. Try not to overstuff the turkey; use a maximum of 10% of the weight of the bird in stuffing. For example, no more than 500g of stuffing for a 5kg turkey.

7. Be patient. Let the turkey rest

Don’t rush to carve a stuffed turkey. A way to make sure the stuffing is properly cooked, without risking overcooking the meat, is to remove the turkey from the oven when the meat is fully cooked and leave it to rest for 30 minutes, loosely covered in tinfoil.

8. Is it cooked?

Using a clean fork or skewer, pierce the thickest part of the breast and thigh. You’ll know it’s cooked when:

  • It’s piping hot throughout
  • Its juices run clear
  • There is no pink meat left
  • Any stuffing is piping hot throughout

9. What to do with leftovers

Cover your leftovers and put them in the fridge within two hours of cooking. Make sure meat is cooled as quickly as possible – cutting it into pieces will help with this. Once in the fridge, any leftovers should be eaten within three days.

10. Freeze them

If freezing leftover meat or poultry, make sure it is stored in a suitable container for freezing. Freeze cooked meat for no more than six months – this is for quality rather than safety.

11. Only reheat once

When re-heating food, ensure it is piping hot all the way throughout. Make sure food is only re-heated once!

12. Healthier options

If you’re looking for healthier options at Christmas, you can also:

  • Trim the skin from your turkey or fat from your ham
  • Try a breadcrumb, nut and seed stuffing instead of sausage
  • Roast potatoes in a little vegetable oil as a healthy alternative to butter
  • Steam vegetables instead of boiling or roasting them

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