Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Q & A: How to make the best use of Turkey Roll while keeping it safe

Q:            I received a 6-pound frozen turkey roll (already cooked) from the food bank. It is in my freezer. I am not sure how to handle it (no directions). If I thaw it, I will have to eat it all and it will take a couple of weeks for me to eat it. It won’t last that long in the fridge. I assume since it is already cooked I cannot re-freeze it. Do you have any ideas? M.F. Grand Rapids, MI

A.            I find it interesting that there were no cooking or handling directions on the turkey roll. Maybe it was packaged for commercial or institutional kitchens who usually have their own large volume recipes.
Anyway, now that you have the large turkey roll, here are a couple of ideas that are safe and can help you stretch it into many meals: 
  1. If you know someone with upper body strength (and the right knife) you could have them saw the turkey roll into portions, maybe into  quarter portions, so you could use one part and return the rest to the freezer.
  2. You could heat the whole turkey roll, slice it into meal portions, then refreeze in individual freezer bags.  Cooking directions for that size of turkey roll, based on whole turkey cooking directions, is to set the oven at 325 F, bake (with a little tent of foil over top) for 2 hours, and check it with a meat thermometer to help you know when it is done (165 degrees F is the safe internal temperature for poultry). Click here for instructions about proper use of a meat thermometer.
  3. As a variation on number 2, you could heat the whole turkey roll, save some of it as slices and cube the rest for stew or homemade soup, then refreeze those ready-to-go cubes in 1 cup or 2 cup portions.

More about Food Safety:
 I know you hear warnings about not refreezing food after it has been thawed (say, when your power goes out), but you would be fine using the directions above because you're heating it to a safe temperature first.

There are a couple of do’s and don’ts to know about freezing vs. not refreezing items. First, there’s the food safety issue. If your power goes out, the perishable food’s temperature may have gotten in the "danger zone" , between 40 and 140 degrees F, without you knowing it, and bacteria multiply profusely in these temperatures.  The one time that it is OK to refreeze meat-type items is when they still contain ice crystals, because that means the meat is still less than 40 degrees F.  (More about saving or tossing food after a power outage here).

Second, there’s a quality issue. If your power went out, and your frozen fruits or vegetables thawed, refreezing them could be safe if they still have ice crystals, but the food may have a less appealing texture when thawed or heated for your meal.

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