How Not To Kill Yourself With The Christmas Turkey This Year

It's the Christmas tradition that strikes mortal fear into home cooks, the big bird that most of us only tackle once a year.

Food safety experts are warning us one wrong move with the Christmas Turkey could leave you and your guests very sick with food poisoning. In a few cases around the world, it was even fatal.

The turkey poses a quadruple threat -- harmful bacteria can multiply rapidly during defrosting, preparing, cooking and storing if the bird is not handled correctly.

You can't spot Salmonella bacteria by looking at or smelling food.

"Unlike our northern hemisphere counterparts, very few people in this part of the world would roast a whole bird during the year and an inexperienced person preparing and cooking a turkey can be a recipe for disaster," warns NSW Food Authority CEO Dr Lisa Szabo.

"This time of year people are often hosting meals for much bigger numbers than they are used to and cooking foods they're not familiar with.

"A whole turkey is a big bird and it needs to be safely defrosted in the fridge.

"The last thing you want is to be taking it out to defrost on Christmas eve because you won't be ready for Christmas lunch."

Last year in Australia, overall there were 5.4 million cases of food poisoning -- it killed 120 people.

While most suffer vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and headaches at home, around 1.2 million were sick enough to visit the doctors for medicinal help. Around 2.1 million working days were lost as a result.

One of the biggest mistakes on Christmas Day may sound laughable but has left many in tears.

Don't forget to turn the oven on!

Here's the essential Turkey checklist-- alcohol consumption not advised.


  • Big birds take at least three days to defrost in the fridge -- 24 hours for every 2.3kg.
  • Thaw in original packaging, unopened, always in the fridge.
  • Make sure the turkey is in a dish large enough to catch all the juices that come out -- that's where the salmonella lies.
  • Ensure the juices do not contaminate any other food.
  • Once defrosted, store in the fridge no more than two days.


  • Wash hands and surfaces with warm soapy water before and after touching raw poultry.
  • Bacteria can spread easily from raw turkey to worktops, chopping boards, dishes and utensils.
  •  If possible, use acrylic or plastic cutting boards, instead of wood.
  •  Rinsing the bird in cold water is risky, it spreads chains of Salmonella bacteria around the kitchen sink, where they can contaminate other foods.
  •  Instead, blot the turkey inside and out with paper towels.
  • Never leave uncooked turkey at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Do not stuff the turkey the night before.


  • Make sure the centre of the bird is above 75 degrees before serving.
  • Juices must run clear when you pierce the turkey.
  • Ensure there is no pink meat, only white when you cut the thickest part of the thigh.


  • Keep cooked turkey in the fridge.
  • Throw away any that has been at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Ensure a heavily stocked Christmas fridge is cold enough