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Food Safety Issues/I defrsted a turkey out the refrigerator


I took out the freezer a 20 Lb turkey and left it in the sink over night and the rest of the following day and put it back to the refrigerator. It was hard rock frozen and was out for about 17 hours (took it out at 12:00 AM and put it back to the refrigerator at 7 PM). Is it safe to cook it?

Hi Dora,

It is no longer recommended to defrost meat and poultry at room temperature because of the presence of harmful bacteria that is found on turkey's today. Fresh turkey's tend to have more harmful bacteria than frozen turkeys including Campylobacter jejuni and Salmonella strains.

The trouble is you can't tell if harmful bacteria is present. You can't see, smell or taste them. Defrosting the bird at room temperature gives the perfect environment for bacteria to grow -- a food source and the right temperature (70 - 110 degrees are their favorite).  While cooking the bird will kill any live bacteria, the problem is that some bacteria can produce a waste product that is toxic and not destroyed by heat.  In other words, cooking a turkey that has been at room temperature for 17 hours does not guarantee a safe bird.

What are your chances of getting ill?  Who knows?  The question you want to take a chance?  This is one lottery you don't want to win!

Sorry...wish I had better advice for you but hope the rest of your Thanksgiving is great.


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Carol Schlitt


I can answer questions on home food safety, sanitation and home food preservation.


I am a former Extension educator, nutrition, wellness and food safety, having retired August 1, 2010. I am a food safety instructor for the Illinois Department of Public Health, a ServSafe Instructor/Proctor and have my own company, Safe & Savory Solutions, Inc -

National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (Past President and current Historian), St. Louis Culinary Society.

BS - University of Illinois MS - Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville

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