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Extension > Food > Food Safety > Preserving and Preparing > Meat and Fish > Beware of Unsafe Ways to Cook Turkey

Meat and Fish

Beware of Unsafe Ways to Cook Turkey

Carol Ann Burtness, Extension Educator — Food Safety

Revised February 2011 by Carol Ann Burtness, Extension Educator — Food Safety. Peer reviewed 2012 by Suzanne Driessen, Extension Educator — Food Safety.

Turkey is the base of many traditional holiday meals. If you enjoy trying something “new” or different, keep in mind that some of the “new” ways of preparing traditional meals may not be safe.

Brown Paper Bag Method

This method involves placing a turkey in a large brown paper grocery bag and cooking the bird at a very low temperature. Brown paper bags were never intended for use as cooking utensils. The glue, ink, chemicals and other materials used in recycling the grocery bags are unsanitary and some bags may even contain tiny metal shavings. To make this method safe, replace the brown bag with a turkey-size oven-cooking bag. Cooking turkey at temperatures below 325 degrees is unsafe so be sure to the oven temperature to 325 degrees or higher. Use a food thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh and breast to check the internal temperature which should read 165 degrees or higher.

Trash Bag Method

This method is sometimes known as the “Mississippi Trash Bag Method.” A whole turkey is placed in a large trash bag and marinated in salt brine, herbs and spices for several hours at room temperature. This is an unsafe method because of the use of trash bags and marinating at room temperature. Do not use non-food grade materials to hold food because chemicals and non-food colors may leach into the food. To make this method safe, replace the trash bag with a large oven-cooking bag. Refrigerate the turkey during the marinating process.

Slow-Cooking Overnight Method

This method is unsafe because it involves cooking the turkey at 190 to 200 degrees overnight for 12 to 13 hours. A low oven temperature means the turkey will take longer to heat and will increase the risk of harmful bacteria growth and the chance that toxins will be produced and not be destroyed with further cooking. To make your turkey safe, do not cook it at temperatures lower than 325 degrees.

Turkducken

A turkducken is a partially boned turkey layered with a boned duck, then with a boned chicken and spread with layers of stuffing between each bird. The entire collection is rolled, tied and roasted at 190 degrees for 12 to 13 hours. Although this recipe has been around for many years, it can be very unsafe if not handled properly. To make this method safer, keep the birds chilled until ready to put together. While boning each bird, keep the others refrigerated. After all three birds have been boned and the stuffing prepared, assemble the turkducken ingredients and quickly get it into a pre-heated oven set no at 325 degrees or higher. Use a food thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the bundle and make sure the stuffing and birds reach 165 degrees or higher. Be sure to check the temperature in several locations.

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