The tastiest turkey is just a mouse click or SMS away - NI

safefood launches new guidelines on cooking times for a safe and tasty turkey!

12 December, 2008. safefood has teamed up with award-winning chef, Neven Maguire to launch new turkey cooking guidelines for electric, fan assisted ovens to produce the safest and tastiest turkey this Christmas.

Consumers can visit the safefood website or text ‘stuffed’ or ‘unstuffed’ plus the weight of their turkey in kilograms to 51500 to get the recommended cooking time for their turkey*.

Dr. David McCleery, Microbiologist, safefood said, “Christmas dinner is a really important occasion and turkey often takes centre stage on the day. Our latest research has revealed that while 82% of people in the Republic of Ireland will buy a turkey to cook this Christmas, just 28% use a time calculation based on the weight of the turkey to estimate the cooking time². Our unique research on the optimum cooking times for turkeys will help to ease the stress of preparing a turkey dinner, ensuring the meal is memorable for all the right reasons.”

He continued, “Improper cooking can lead to the spread of harmful bacteria, which could cause serious illness. Regardless of what cooking method, timings or recipe you use, always ensure your turkey is properly cooked by checking that there is no pink meat in the thickest part of the breast and thigh, the juices run clear and the meat is piping hot throughout.”

Previous safefood consumer research revealed that 6 in 10 people on the island of Ireland stuff the turkey cavity and almost a quarter (23%) stuff the neck³. The stuffing should be loosely packed in the cavity and be no more than 10% of the weight of the bird.

Consumers should also check that the stuffing in cavity-stuffed turkeys, is piping hot at the centre as this is the slowest point to cook in stuffed turkeys. safefood’s helpline, website and SMS service can advise consumers on how much stuffing to use based on the weight of their turkey, and provide the recommended cooking time.

Supporting safefood’s guidelines, Neven Maguire said, “Christmas dinner is undoubtedly one of the most special meals of the year, but preparing a tasty and nutritious meal for family and friends is pointless if the proper food hygiene practices are ignored. Any leftovers should be cooled and refrigerated within two hours of cooking and eaten within three days, making sure they are piping hot and reheated only once. My recipe for a turkey and leek pie is a delicious way to use up the leftovers and is available on the safefood website.”

10% of people in the Republic of Ireland who buy a turkey get their cooking advice from their butcher² and safefood leaflets including the new guidelines are now available in butchers across the island of Ireland or from the safefood helpline and website. Consumers should remember to thoroughly wash their hands and any surfaces that come into contact with raw turkey, and ensure any frozen turkey is thoroughly defrosted before cooking, so that Christmas dinner will be a safe and enjoyable experience. 

Further food safety information, including the recommended cooking times and temperatures for gas and non-fan assisted electric ovens can be found on or by calling the safefood helpline on 1850 40 45 67 for a copy of safefood ’s free Christmas leaflet, “Christmas Cheer with safefood”.


For further information please contact

Kate FitzGerald /Susie Cunningham, WHPR 

Tel: 01 6690030 or 086 3873 083 (Kate) / 087 8505055 (Susie)

Dermot Moriarty, safefood Tel: 01 4480060



  1. safefood commissioned research conducted by the Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association (CCFRA, UK), “Determination of the appropriate cooking regimes for recommendations for the safe roasting/cooking of stuffed turkey”, 2007 & 2008.
  2. safetrak 10, October 2008
  3. safetrak 4, February 2005

Additional findings

  • 67% of people in the Republic of Ireland buy fresh turkeys with 15% purchasing frozen turkeys².
  • 7% of people in the Republic of Ireland said they know their turkey is cooked when it smells cooked².
  • 65% of people in the Republic of Ireland use bread stuffing compared to 20% using sausage meat to stuff their turkey².
  • 7% of people in the Republic of Ireland don’t have any leftover turkey after Christmas dinner².

Further details on the CCFRA, UK research

The turkeys were stuffed using a sage and onion breadcrumb stuffing or a sausage meat stuffing, the recipes for which can be found on the safefood website. The weight of the stuffing used was no more than 10% of the weight of the unstuffed turkey.

  • All of the turkeys were cooked breast up in fan-assisted ovens pre-heated to 180°C, and rubbed with butter and seasoned with salt and pepper before cooking. Foil was used to cover the bird throughout cooking up until the final 30 minutes. Basting was required every hour during cooking to reduce dehydration.
  • Before serving, consumers should always ensure a turkey is properly cooked by checking there is no pink meat left, the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced at the thickest point and the meat is piping hot, all the way through - it should be steaming. In cavity-stuffed turkeys, the stuffing should also be piping hot at the centre as this is the slowest point to cook in stuffed turkeys.
  • All of the turkeys were cooked to a safe temperature to destroy all harmful bacteria and then assessed based on their sensory quality by a panel of three expert assessors. The panel judged the sensory quality of each turkey based on the external appearance of the whole bird including the colour, dryness and juices; the internal appearance including the colour and moisture of the white meat, dark meat and skin; and the flavour and texture or mouthfeel including the moistness and chewiness of the white meat, dark meat and skin. *

To get the best (and safest) cooking time for your turkey, simply text the weight of your turkey in KILOS to 51500 (Standard SMS costs apply) and you will receive your calculated cooking time. And if you stuff your turkey, you’ll also receive the maximum amount of stuffing to use.

For example: For an unstuffed turkey Text UNSTUFFED and the weight of your turkey in kilograms to 51500 (Standard SMS costs apply)

E.g. for a 5.2kg turkey, text UNSTUFFED 5.2

For a stuffed turkey Text STUFFED and the weight of your unstuffed turkey in kilos to 51500 (Standard SMS costs apply)

E.g. for a 6.0kg turkey, text STUFFED 6 (don’t worry, we will calculate the weight of the stuffing for you).

Note: safefood’s cooking advice is based on electric, fan assisted ovens only. It is important that you make adjustments based on your own oven type.

For other oven types and times, please visit www, or call the safefood helpline 1850 40 4567 / 0800 085 1683.

SMS Terms and Conditions

  • The texting service will commence on 8 December 2008 and end on 26 December 2008
  • This service is being provided by safefood
  • You must have the bill-payer’s permission to take part
  • This service is only open to residents of ROI and NI
  • Neither safefood, nor Púca are responsible for any network delay or non-receipt of messages

SP: Púca (00353 1-2186831 / PO Box 10975, Dublin 4.)

safefood’s sage and onion bread crumb stuffing

(Serves 4 - 6)


  • 500g of bread crumbs
  • 50g butter
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 4 sage leaves, chopped


  • Melt the butter in a pot, add the onion and cook until soft
  • Add the chopped sage and fold in the bread crumbs, seasoning with a little salt and pepper.

Tip: For a healthier alternative, you can use half the quantity of butter with some vegetable oil instead.