What do you do to ensure proper poultry safety? Share your best tips here.
In any cookbook, especially one about sous vide cooking, it is important to touch on the danger zone and how it affects food. The danger zone is the temperatures at which harmful bacteria grows and is between 40°F and 126°F (4.4°C and 52.2°C). While the bacteria stop growing above 126°F (52.2°C) they don't start dying quickly until around 130°F (54.4°C).
Note: You may have heard, especially if you work in the restaurant industry, that the danger zone goes up to 140°F (60°C) but that is based on building in a margin of error for restaurants, not the actual growth and death of the pathogens.
For proper food safety, most experts recommend ensuring that your food is in the danger zone for less than 3 to 4 hours total, from the time you purchase it to the time you eat it.
Most turkey should be pasteurized, which means it is cooked long enough that the pathogens are killed. This means you should be cooking it above the danger zone, and I usually recommend 130°F (54.4°C) as the lower limit to account for fluctuations on sous vide machines and uneven heating of the water.
The danger zone only comes into play during the preparation process. You'll want to ensure that your handling of the turkey is optimized to keep it out of the danger zone during the prepping, seasoning, and sealing process, as well as the cooling process if you plan to store it to eat later.
Note: For a really good look at this process, as well as many other scientific underpinnings of cooking, I highly recommend On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee.