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Originally published November 8, 2006 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 23, 2006 at 8:26 AM

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The new rules for cooking a bird

This is the first Thanksgiving since the U.S. Department of Agriculture lowered its recommended minimum internal temperature for cooking...

Seattle Times staff reporter

This is the first Thanksgiving since the U.S. Department of Agriculture lowered its recommended minimum internal temperature for cooking poultry.

After years of advocating an internal cooking temperature of 180 degrees for turkey, the new minimum internal temperature is 165 degrees. That means that, for safety, a temperature of 165 degrees must be reached in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. If the turkey is stuffed, that temperature must also be reached in the center of the stuffing.

Turns out, officials based their previous recommendations on doneness, rather than food safety alone, said Tara Balsley, a Food Safety and Inspection Service spokeswoman.

So, for palatability preferences, cooks may want to cook poultry beyond the new minimum.

This season, we have seen a variety of internal cooking temperatures and cooking advice touted in magazines and recipe publications.

Although some cooks like to take meat out of the oven prior to it reaching the recommended internal temperature and let the temperature rise during the "resting time," Diane Van, manager of the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, said the agency does not recommend this for turkey. She said the bird should be left in the oven until it reaches the 165-degree reading on a meat thermometer.

Although the USDA has changed the temperature requirements, their official cooking chart (shown at right) does not reflect a change in the "approximate cooking times."

Van said the agency has not conducted the necessary tests to update that information, so she recommends that cooks consider the time as approximate and begin testing for the desired doneness, using a meat thermometer, before that time.

The new cooking temperature is the result of a study the agency conducted last year following an outbreak of salmonella in Minnesota and Michigan. Consumers there ate microwavable chicken meals that appeared ready-to-eat but contained poultry that actually required more cooking.

Sharon Lane, Food editor, contributed to this article.

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Karen Gaudette: 206-515-5618 or kgaudette@seattletimes.com

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