Turkey Brine Disaster
November 25, 2008 9:44 PM   Subscribe

Turkey brining fiasco - Is my turkey that has been sitting in cold tap water for the past 18 hours still good to cook?

I attempted to follow Alton Brown's turkey brining method but may have messed up. Instead of placing ice inside of the brine i used cold tap water forgetting more-or-less the turkey had to sit in the solution for hours. For the past 18 hours, my seemingly 'fresh' (not frozen) turkey has been in a large bucket with just cold tap water (and additional brining ingredients). The bucket and turkey have not been put in the fridge and i left the turkey out in my room temperature kitchen.

Has my turkey expired? Should i not deep fry this bird?

The turkey wasn't completely thawed but 90% of was.
posted by AMP583 to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I pretty much did what you did last year. Except I did it for about a day and a half. I never added any ice at all, the turkey was great! But I'm not a turkey expert, nor am I your turkey expert, YMMV and other disclaimers...
posted by whoaali at 9:56 PM on November 25, 2008

I doubt that brine is strong enough to have a major effect on bacterial growth.

I would treat the turkey as a loss.
posted by Good Brain at 10:00 PM on November 25, 2008

$10 to $30 is a small price to pay for piece of non-food poisoned mind. Buy a new turkey.
posted by wfrgms at 10:03 PM on November 25, 2008

If it wasnt completely thawed, the water was probably just above ice temperature. I think your turkey is probably fine.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:09 PM on November 25, 2008

Just make people sign a waiver.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:16 PM on November 25, 2008

I say go for it. Even if the turkey was just at refrigerator temperature when you put it in the water (plus the brining ingredients which also work in your favor) I think it would probably be fine. But with it being a little bit frozen, I wouldn't have any qualms whatsoever about serving/eating it.
posted by samph at 10:26 PM on November 25, 2008

I would check the temperature of the brine now. If it's substantially below room temperature then it's probably ok. But if it's at room temperature that would make me more nervous.
posted by pombe at 10:29 PM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding eating it. I feel like too much is made about safe food handling, in the past month I've eaten eggs that were in my fridge for two months, expired milk that barely passed the smell test, and chicken that had been "thawing" in my fridge for over a week. The brine had a cup of salt in it and it's only been 18hours, how bad could it really be, the pilgrims didn't have refrigators so you could say it's authentic.
posted by BrnP84 at 10:33 PM on November 25, 2008

I would not eat the turkey. Salmonella is nothing to take lightly.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:39 PM on November 25, 2008

I got food poisoning from turkey three separate times before swearing it off altogether, and that was without letting it sit at room temperature for a day and a half. I wouldn't touch that turkey with a barge pole.
posted by HotToddy at 10:41 PM on November 25, 2008

Your turkey is probably fine. Refrigerate it from now on.
posted by kdar at 10:48 PM on November 25, 2008

I know it really hurts to throw away that much money on a turkey, but please don't serve this to your guests. At least not without warning them. And you really don't want your guests to know that you're serving them possibly unsafe turkey. Bite the bullet and go out and buy another turkey. So sorry.
posted by marsha56 at 11:21 PM on November 25, 2008

I think you'd be ok as long as you cooked the turkey to an internal temperature of 165F, but if I were you I'd check with the food safety experts at Barf Blog just to be sure.
posted by stefanie at 12:23 AM on November 26, 2008

I, personally, would eat the turkey as long as it was well cooked.

But I also have a lower threshold of food-spoilage-phobia than many
posted by edgeways at 1:52 AM on November 26, 2008

Yeah, if it was just for you, totally your call based on your willingness to endure possible food poisoning. But since you're presumably serving it to guests, all bets are off. You're pretty much obligated to warn them, and nothing could be less appetizing than an announcement that the main course might be "off."
posted by charmcityblues at 3:41 AM on November 26, 2008

This is silly. You're getting a mix of eat it/don't eat its from people who have made a relatively small number of turkeys. Use this hotline page to find an expert. The rest of us (and I'm including me) are armchair turkey cookers by comparison.
posted by plinth at 3:55 AM on November 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

I would not eat the turkey. Salmonella is nothing to take lightly.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:39 AM on November 26 [+] [!]

Salmonella (and its toxins) are completely destroyed by normal cooking temperatures. That's why it is mostly mentioned w.r.t raw eggs, handling raw chicken, & salads.

Cook it with a thermometer, and eat it. But cook it now, not Thursday, or never - the bacteria WILL begin to grow, if left long enough.
posted by IAmBroom at 4:57 AM on November 26, 2008

Most of us missed the fact that you're deep frying. IMHO, if you just make sure it's well cooked there should be no worries about the bacteria.
posted by raisingsand at 5:27 AM on November 26, 2008

Pombe has it exactly right. If it's less than 40 degrees, it's probably about the same temperature as your refrigerator anyway. No point in throwing out perfectly edible food.
posted by Neiltupper at 5:41 AM on November 26, 2008

Let me tell you a little story of a holiday dinner gone bad:

I was in my teens at the time and a pretty decent cook for my age. I would often help my mom in the kitchen prepare big meals. (her turkey tastes like a desert so having me there is a very good thing). For Christmas we usually make a huge spread. Very nice dinner btw. Every other year we make something called Seafood Newberg. It is a creamy seafood stew. Also very good. It has shrimp, crab meat, lobster, and scallops in it. We left the scallops out for a few hours thinking what is the worst that could happen right? Well, everyone that had a bowl ended up with food poisoning. Not just "Ouch my stomach hurts" food poisoning but "stuff coming out of both ends" food poisoning. It was so bad that the next day the pot of it was bubbling in the frig. Needless to say we have a standing rule of only using frozen seafood in it whenever we make it.

The moral of my holiday mishap is that if it is just for you then sure why not go for it. But if you have relatives coming for all over the place then do not take a chance with their health.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 6:08 AM on November 26, 2008

as long as it's cooked properly it should be fine. this kind of situation (making sure bacteria in food is dead) is exactly what cooking is used for. Make sure the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh is at 160.

Also, Alton's recipe for brine is quite salty and shouldn't have allowed any new bacteria that wasn't in the bird already to invade.
posted by dozo at 6:31 AM on November 26, 2008

This seems to need repeating in every "should I eat this thread": cooking the hell out of the food won't help if it's already contaminated. You get poisoned by the toxins that were secreted by the bacteria, and those toxins aren't destroyed by cooking.

That said, I would agree with those who say to measure the temperature of the water. If it's still within a few degrees of fridge temperature then you're probably fine.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:43 AM on November 26, 2008

The chance of this bird, being one of several million served this Thanksgiving, having salmonella, and that if it did that the bacteria have thrived in the brine, survived deep frying, and will therefore poison you are next to nil.

The problem has always been stuffing does not get to the required 165f.
posted by Gungho at 6:46 AM on November 26, 2008

Having been the victim of thanksgiving food poisoning myself, i say start over.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:47 AM on November 26, 2008

BarfBlog says it's okay to thaw your turkey at room temp as long as you cook it to 165 F internally.

The salt in the brine will actually help lower the water temp along with the residual freezing in the bird, so that helps, too.
posted by briank at 7:16 AM on November 26, 2008

I feel like too much is made about safe food handling

Among the worst advice ever given on AskMe, and that is saying a lot Chuck it..
posted by fixedgear at 7:59 AM on November 26, 2008

If BarfBlog says it's ok, it's ok. I've been to parties with BarfBlog's creator. I've seen him critique party food. He's not one to toss caution to the wind.
posted by donnagirl at 8:59 AM on November 26, 2008

I'm not understanding something here:

...my seemingly 'fresh' (not frozen) turkey...
The turkey wasn't completely thawed but 90% of was.

So was it frozen, or not? If it was never frozen, how can it be described as "90% thawed" (which to me implies 10% frozen)?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:42 AM on November 26, 2008

USDA doesn't consider a bird "frozen" unless it is brought to 0'F. Almost all supermarket birds are partially frozen, at 26'F, but still can be called 'fresh'

From the USDA Wb Site: The foodservice industry can be assured both frozen and fresh turkeys are quality products. Frozen turkeys are flash frozen immediately after packaging to 0ºF or below and held at that safe temperature. Fresh turkeys are deep-chilled after packaging and have shorter shelf lives. The term "fresh" may only be placed on raw poultry that has never been below 26ºF. Because they are perishable and require special handling and merchandising, fresh turkeys are slightly more expensive than frozen turkeys. No specific labeling is required on poultry between 0ºF and 26ºF. Choose the product that best meets the needs of your foodservice operation. By purchasing a frozen turkey, your food cost percentages and profits are typically greater. Fresh turkeys provide convenience since no thawing is required.
posted by Gungho at 7:55 AM on November 28, 2008

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