Can we eat it pre-Thanksgiving edition
November 16, 2017 4:04 AM   Subscribe

Can an uncooked turkey sitting out at 70 degrees for several hours be cooked and eaten safely?

We bought a turkey last night, plan is to cook it tomorrow. It was not completely frozen, but there was some ice on the bottom. Brought it home around 10pm last night. 9 hours later it was still in the grocery bag. Ambient temperature of the apartment is 70 is degrees. Safe to cook, or have we unnecessarily sacrificed a bird?
posted by tip120 to Food & Drink (18 answers total)
 
Sorry. Bye-bye birdie. Parts of your bird have just about undoubtedly reached a temperature where nasty bugs can thrive, nasty bugs of the sort that produced toxins not destroyed by cooking. If any part of the bird sits at room temperature for any measurable amount of time - especially from frozen as opposed to from just out of the oven - you are taking risks that could go as bad as kidney failure, but would probably be no worse than IV fluids to control vomiting and diarrhea.

You've got yourself a dead bird.
posted by Jane the Brown at 4:22 AM on November 16, 2017 [13 favorites]


All night? Do not eat, and I am lax about these things.
posted by donnagirl at 4:51 AM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


What do you mean "not completely frozen?" Was it frozen solid when you bought it? If it was, I'd say you're fine because it takes a turkey a very long time to defrost and it stays out of the danger zone for a day or more while doing so (though it's recommended to do this in the fridge anyway).

But if it was fresh/not frozen, and just sold refrigerated, then, no, absolutely not. Those conditions are textbook foodborne illness risks.

Sorry, turkey.
posted by Miko at 5:07 AM on November 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


The USDA "danger zone" is above 40F -- for the food, not the room. I think a shrink-wrapped turkey is likely to be fairly consistent in temperature throughout. I'd measure the temperature of the flesh before making a decision. If it never topped 40 degrees then there's nothing to worry about. If it were only a little over 40 then I'd cook it sooner rather than later. Significantly over 40, though, and it's not worth the risk.
posted by jon1270 at 5:08 AM on November 16, 2017 [8 favorites]


It's dead, Jim.
posted by RhysPenbras at 5:12 AM on November 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


I'd measure the temperature of the flesh

But do this shallowly/at the surface, rather than plunging the thermometer an inch or two into the meat. Because that's likely to be quite cold, still, due to the density of the turkey. Since bacteria is most commonly found on the food surface, if the surface has crossed the danger zone, it's been a nice place for that population of bacteria to start growing comfortably.
posted by Miko at 5:17 AM on November 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


If it were being cooked like right now I'd probably risk it, but sticking it in the fridge (or even freezer) for another week before cooking it? Even my incredibly lax standards are well beyond that. At this point, you're just where a lot of people who don't follow the instructions start of from every single year. A week from now, you'll have a bacteria soup, not a turkey carcass.

Maybe I'd consider eating it if I had some UV disinfection bulbs that it had been sitting under during its unfortunate thaw and it was just me being subjected to the risk and I couldn't afford more turkey.
posted by wierdo at 6:42 AM on November 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Yeah, all the people freaking out must not know that this is incredibly common, and literally happens in about a million households in the USA every year around Thanksgiving. I would almost certainly cook and eat it today, though I'd also prefer not to feed it to out of town guests without any caveats. I agree it is not wise to put it back in the fridge at this point.

(N.B. I suppose it is possible that there is a mass spike in incidence of food poisoning due to turkey-thawed-overnight-and-not-in-fridge every year, but if so I've never heard of it).
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:25 AM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


Yeah, all the people freaking out must not know that this is incredibly common, and literally happens in about a million households in the USA every year around Thanksgiving.

This is one of the many reasons why I don't "celebrate" the "holiday." Also this is not how statistics works. Anecdotes of "I did this and was fine!" and "oh lots of people probably do this and I assume they are fine!" are not the answer to this question.

Throw out the bird, sorry.
posted by sockermom at 7:28 AM on November 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


If you had kept it overnight in an ice/brine bath, it would be fine, because it would have been kept at a food-safe temperature throughout. But in this case, no. I would absolutely not roast this turkey and eat it myself or feed it to others unless I was trying for a pre-Thanksgiving murder-suicide by food-poisoning dinner party.
posted by paco758 at 7:29 AM on November 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'm way on the lax side, and I'd cook it and eat it today, but not a week from now.
posted by LizardBreath at 7:56 AM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


FWIW, my stance is based in fact, not anecdote. While bacterial growth is higher at 65 than it is at 40, we're talking around 12 hours during which it was rising from near freezing to below room temperature. Bacterial growth goes gangbusters at higher temperatures and I definitely wouldn't eat it if it were the middle of summer and it had been sitting in an 85 degree kitchen. That's right in the prime range for explosive bacterial growth. (Which is why you shouldn't leave food sitting out for hours after being cooked)

That said, there is risk involved, so feeding it to third parties is a complete no go.
posted by wierdo at 7:58 AM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


As far as statistics go: if anyone wants to look at recent scholarly research on poultry and food-borne illness, check out Poultry: the most common food in outbreaks with known pathogens, United States, 1998-2012, published by CDC researchers here.

Of note: the vast majority of risk is due to Salmonella , Clostridium and Campylobacter, together accounting for 76% of all cases in the study period, and all of these can be avoided through proper cooking [1], [2], [3].

I believe every single one of the cases reported on in that study are things that are prevented by fully cooking poultry in a safe manner, and handling/storing the food safely after cooking, but I did not individually research every pathogen listed. The article is behind a paywall, but I'm happy to share it with anyone who's interested.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:24 AM on November 16, 2017


(N.B. I suppose it is possible that there is a mass spike in incidence of food poisoning due to turkey-thawed-overnight-and-not-in-fridge every year, but if so I've never heard of it).

I think you're missing something: this one apparently didn't start out as a frozen turkey. That's what makes all the difference in the world. If it had been solid frozen when brought from the store, I would totally agree with you.
posted by Miko at 8:27 AM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


Thanks Miko, maybe I am missing something.
It was not completely frozen
--I interpreted that to mean that the turkey was delivered to grocer frozen, but by time it got home it was not completely rock hard, e.g. the surface had started to thaw. Still generally in the category of "frozen turkey", or so I thought. My responses are based on that interpretation, but it may indeed be an erroneous one. And on that note I will bow out for real :)
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:33 AM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


tldr : we're composting the turkey.

Thanks everyone. A couple notes to clarify as it seems not obvious. This was not a frozen turkey. The ice on the bottom was probably from storage/transportation. The flesh/meat under the bag was soft and pliable. It was going to be consumed tomorrow (so about 48 hours after purchase), not a week from now.

I am certainly on the lax side of things, but as it's for guests and SO and not just myself we're composting the bird (yes, we can compost meat in our city). I'm picking up a suitable replacement tonight & will promptly be brining and refrigerating the beast.

And I always thought the "can I eat it?" posts were silly.
posted by tip120 at 11:57 AM on November 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Put in the backyard for raccoon thanksgiving.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:11 PM on November 16, 2017


Ew! No. It sounds like you're making the right choice.

And as for the spike in foodborne illnesses right after Thanksgiving--have you heard of "winter vomiting disease" aka norovirus? It's not bacterial and wouldn't be tied to the surface temp of a turkey, but there is absolutely a spike in these illnesses after food-sharing holidays during fall and winter months. Keep yr birds safe and wash your hands, everyone!
posted by witchen at 8:07 AM on November 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


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