“Turkey makes you sleepy”
Turkey does contain tryptophan, the amino acid implicated in somnolence. We experience the effect of tryptophan when warm milk at bedtime or take melatonin to help with insomnia. But turkey doesn’t contain any more tryptophan than the other meats we regularly eat - chicken, beef, pork, etc. So it surely is not the reason we all feel like collapsing after our giant Thanksgiving meal. Still, we all know the feeling… so why does it happen?
It is more likely due to the huge load of carbohydrates that invariably accompanies that turkey. The carbohydrates - potatoes, sweet potatoes with marshmallow, stuffing, pumpkin and pecan pies, etc - result in release of insulin that subsequently sets off a series of events that promotes the passage of tryptophan into the brain. Once in the brain, it is converted to serotonin and melatonin, both of which are known to cause drowsiness.
“Flaming the inside of the turkey removes the risk of salmonella”
Wrong! Regardless of how you treat the inside of your bird, you need to be aware of the real risk of bacterial “poisoning” associated with eating poultry that has not been cooked at the proper temperature. The most commonly implicated bacteria is salmonella. How you thaw your turkey, how you stuff your turkey, the temperature of the meat, the temperature of the stuffing - - these are all important to ensure safety around the Thanksgiving meal. For complete details on this topic, visit these excellent web sites at the CDC and USDA:
CDC turkey info - -
USDA info - -
“You can’t stuff your turkey without risking salmonella poisoning”
Not true! You do have to be careful, but there is no reason you cannot to enjoy stuffing cooked inside the bird if that’s what you like best. Here are the steps to a safely stuffed turkey:
Make sure the stuffing is moist and loosely packed.
Stuff the turkey immediately before cooking. Definitely avoid pre-stuffed turkeys.
Make sure the internal stuffing temperature reaches 165ºF to ensure killing of any bacteria.
“There are genuine health concerns surrounding poorly cooked or undercooked turkey”
True! Salmonella and pathogenic E. coli are two of the big culprits that can ruin a Thanksgiving holiday. Careful hand washing and washing of the utensils used on raw meat are essential. Careful attention to the thawing, preparation, and cooking process will help on the other end. When all is said and done, there is no reason not to have a safe and disease-free Thanksgiving. Some key points:
As always, carefully wash hands before and after meal preparation. Be particularly careful after handling raw meat.
Use hot soapy water to keep utensils, cutting boards, and countertops clean after each use.
Take extra care to keep preparation of meats separate from vegetable to avoid “cross-contamination”.
Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator. Keeping the temperature around 40º F will retard or prevent the replication of bacteria, something that room temperature will promote.
Ideally cook fresh turkeys within two days of purchase.
Avoid leaks of turkey juice in the refrigerator, as these can contaminate foods that otherwise would not be suspected of being a problem.
Check the temperature of the thigh, breast, and stuffing cavity (if stuffed) periodically throughout cooking. Be sure 165º F is reached before removing and let the bird stand for at least 20 minutes before serving.
Pay attention to stuffing preparation as noted in “myths” above.
“Thanksgiving = lots of calories!”
Fun fact #2 = the average Thanksgiving intake is estimated at close to 3000 calories and sometimes includes 250-300 grams of fat! Not something to make a daily habit of…!
“Burns and cuts are an especially great hazard on Thanksgiving”
Thanksgiving is frequently a time for family and friends to get together. Whether gathering just for the consumption or for the entire day, this generally means more people in the kitchen. And if frequently means more kids in places where accidents can happen. All this adds up to an increased risks of cuts and burns. Burns especially can occur quickly and unexpectedly and be very severe.
Be especially careful with all the regular safety practices that should accompany a busy kitchen and table - - today is almost guaranteed to be the busiest and therefore potentially the most dangerous. Be especially careful when young children are around the house, especially in households that don’t generally have youngsters around.