Q: Is pink turkey meat safe to eat?
A: Turkey meat will be safely cooked when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees; however, the meat may still be slightly pink. Some people may prefer cooking turkey to a higher temperature (whole turkey to 180 degrees in the innermost part of the thigh; turkey breasts to 170 degrees in the thickest part) for meat that is more well-done. That's definitely not my preference. I find that the turkey meat dries out more at a higher internal temperature; therefore, to keep it moist and tender, I like to cook it to 165 degrees.
I know that the color "pink" in cooked turkey meat raises a red flag to many diners and cooks. But the color of cooked poultry is not always a sure sign of its safety. Only by using a food thermometer can one accurately determine that poultry has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees throughout the product. Turkey can remain pink even after cooking to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165. The meat of smoked turkey is always pink.
To understand some of the causes of "pinking" or "pinkening" in fresh turkey, go to the link on our Web site at douglas.ksu.edu. Also, take time to look at our Web site to find links to everything you ever wanted to know about preparing for Thanksgiving.
Speaking of Thanksgiving, I'm often asked what to do with turkey leftovers. Here's a recipe that was shared by Carole Boulton, one of our Douglas County Extension Master Food Volunteers, at a celebration event that she hosted a few years ago. With her permission, I passed it on during a presentation that I gave at the SkillBuilders training the other day. As I discussed with the participants, leftover cooked turkey could be used in place of the chicken in this recipe for a great soup after Thanksgiving.
Chicken (or Turkey) Taco Soup
1/2 cup diced fresh or frozen onions
1/2 cup diced fresh or frozen green bell peppers
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded or
1 whole cooked rotisserie chicken, deboned and shredded (or 1 pound cooked, deboned and shredded turkey)
1 (1 ounce) package taco seasoning mix
1 (8 ounce) bottle mild tomato salsa
1 (15.25 ounce) can whole kernel corn
1 (15.5 ounce) can hominy, drained
1 (16 ounce) can chili beans
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
2 quarts reduced sodium chicken broth
1 (8 ounce) package low fat cream cheese
Saute onions, peppers and garlic in canola oil. Add chicken (or turkey), taco seasoning mix, salsa, vegetables, beans, tomato paste and chicken broth. Bring to a slow simmer. Simmer for at least 20 minutes.
Put cream cheese in a separate bowl. Using a soup ladle, remove some of the hot liquid from the soup and pour over the cream cheese to melt. Add it back to the rest of the soup. Simmer on low for another 10 minutes. If desired, serve with tortilla chips and grated Monterey jack cheese.
(For a planned leftover, pour soup over rice the next day.)
To freeze small portions, prepare according to the recipe, except do not add the cream cheese until ready to serve.
Makes 16 (1 cup) servings.
Nutrition facts per serving: 210 calories, 8 grams total fat, 2.5 grams saturated fat, 20 milligrams cholesterol, 960 milligrams sodium, 25 grams total carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 6 grams sugar, 11 grams protein.