Is turkey safe to eat at 150 degrees? (How to cook)
In this brief guide, we will answer the question “Is turkey safe to eat at 150 degrees?”. We will discuss all the aspects related to the cooking of turkey at 150 °F including the best technique to do it.
Is turkey safe to eat at 150 degrees?
Yes, turkey is safe to eat at 150 degrees as long as the turkey spends the proper amount of time in that temperature. When it comes to cooking turkey, time and the fat content are just as essential as temperature.
Turkey containing 1% fat requires a minimum cooking time of 3.8 minutes at an internal temperature of 150°F (65.5°C), whereas turkey with a 12% fat content requires at least 4.9 minutes of cooking.
This happens because when fats are present, certain microorganisms tend to display increased heat resistance. This phenomenon is sometimes called “fat protection,” and it is thought to enhance heat resistance by affecting the moisture levels within cells. (1, 2)
Why is that extended time necessary?
This extended time in the cooking process is necessary to ensure a significant reduction in the presence of Salmonella spp. While it is technically possible to cook turkey at 150°F (65.5°C), it is generally discouraged. This is because of the need for a 7.0 log10 reduction in Salmonella spp. to guarantee the safety of poultry.
A log10 reduction denotes a tenfold decrease in pathogens. When the necessary 7.0 log10 reductions are achieved, the food is considered safe for consumption.
However, if the poultry falls short of these 7.0 log10 reductions, it is deemed undercooked and should undergo extended cooking to reach the required log10 reductions or be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) as this temperature can instantly eliminate any pathogens within the meat. (1, 2)
Why is it necessary to properly cook turkey?
Consuming undercooked turkey poses a significant health risk. When turkey is not heated to a temperature that effectively eliminates harmful pathogens, it increases the likelihood of contracting foodborne illnesses. Cooking methods like frying can raise the external temperature of the turkey to levels that can eliminate surface bacteria.
However, insufficient cooking may allow certain internal bacterial pathogens to survive, potentially leading to health concerns if the partially cooked turkey is consumed. Incomplete cooking primarily concerns bacterial pathogens within the turkey itself, while the risk of cross-contamination primarily involves bacteria present on the surface of poultry.
This risk can extend to other food items, either directly or indirectly, as these bacteria can be transferred during the food preparation and handling process. (3, 4)
What are the most common foodborne pathogens in turkey?
Turkey meat, like other poultry, often carries various pathogens with Campylobacter and Salmonella being the most prominent. These two pathogens, known to pose health hazards to humans, are frequently present in significant quantities within the digestive systems of birds.
However, it remains essential to identify their presence, even when they are present in small amounts, following any contamination of turkey meat. (5)
What happens if you eat contaminated turkey?
Consuming turkey contaminated with harmful pathogens can lead to foodborne illnesses.
Campylobacter infection often manifests as stomach cramps, along with fever and diarrhea, occasionally with blood. Nausea and vomiting may also accompany the onset of diarrhea. Typically, these symptoms appear within two to five days after infection and last for about a week.
In cases of Salmonella infection, on the other hand, most individuals develop symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. They become noticeable within a range of six hours to six days after infection and persist for four to seven days. (5-7)
What is the best technique to cook turkey at 150 degrees?
The sous vide technique is consistently used as the ideal method for achieving this objective. Sous vide, is defined as the process of cooking raw ingredients in vacuum-sealed, heat-resistant pouches or containers while meticulously controlling both temperature and duration, followed by prompt cooling.
This culinary approach falls within the realm of low-temperature, prolonged cooking, and has been a staple in restaurant kitchens since the 1970s, experiencing a surge in popularity since the early 2000s. Sous vide primarily employs lower temperatures, typically staying below 70°C for cooking.
These lower temperatures are safe to use, provided that they are accompanied by sufficiently extended cooking times to effectively eliminate harmful pathogens. The necessary cooking times can vary widely, ranging from mere minutes to several days, depending on the specific temperature employed. Ensuring the precise pairing of time and temperature is crucial for safety. (1)
What is the safest way to prepare a turkey?
The safest way to prepare turkey requires cooking it to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F (73.9°C) throughout the entire bird. If you choose to stuff the whole poultry, the center of the stuffing must also reach a minimum internal temperature of 165°F (73.9°C). To verify that this temperature is reached, it is essential to use a food thermometer both for the turkey and its stuffing.
Consistently using a food thermometer at various stages of cooking is strongly recommended to ensure that the crucial temperature is achieved. It is also advisable not to stuff whole poultry. The recommended approach is to cook the stuffing separately from the bird. After cooking, allow the turkey to rest for 20 minutes before removing the stuffing and carving. (8)
In this brief guide, we have answered the question “Is turkey safe to eat at 150 degrees?”. We have discussed all the aspects related to the cooking of turkey at 150 °F including the best technique to do it.
Studying this topic I was able to conclude that while a turkey that was properly cooked at 150 °F is safe to eat, consuming undercooked turkey carries a high risk of causing foodborne illness. In my perspective when preparing turkey at home it is safer to cook it until it reaches the appropriate temperature of 165°F.
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PLAIN, Sara et al. Examining the safety of duck breast prepared the sous vide method. BCIT Environmental Public Health Journal, 2016.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service. FSIS Cooking Guideline for Meat and Poultry Products (Revised Appendix A). 2021.
BROWN, Laura Green et al. Frequency of inadequate chicken cross-contamination prevention and cooking practices in restaurants. Journal of food protection, v. 76, n. 12, p. 2041-2045, 2013.
LUBER, Petra. Cross-contamination versus undercooking of poultry meat or eggs—which risks need to be managed first?. International journal of food microbiology, v. 134, n. 1-2, p. 21-28, 2009.
ROUGER, Amélie; TRESSE, Odile; ZAGOREC, Monique. Bacterial contaminants of poultry meat: sources, species, and dynamics. Microorganisms, v. 5, n. 3, p. 50, 2017.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. Campylobacter (Campylobacteriosis). 2021.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. Salmonella. 2023.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety Website. Washington, DC. Turkey from Farm to Table. 2021.