New research reveals one in four adults in Republic of Ireland have experienced a Christmas dinner disaster

Monday, 10 December 2018. It’s like something from a Christmas comedy movie - spending hours making the Christmas dinner and then see it all go badly wrong. And according to new research commissioned by safefood, one in four (27%) people in the Republic of Ireland have experienced a Christmas cooking disaster. With the festive season upon us – and plenty of cooking ahead – safefood has all the tips and advice to help people have the safest, tastiest turkey this Christmas.

In the Republic of Ireland, almost a million turkeys¹ are prepared and cooked on Christmas day, but 15% of Irish people have had issues with undercooking (6%) or overcooking (9%) their turkey. The research also showed that forgetting to turn on the oven (7%) or defrost the turkey (4%) were two of the most common causes of a Christmas Day cooking calamity.

Dr. Linda Gordon, Chief Specialist Food Science, safefood commented;

Christmas dinner is one of the most special meals of the year, with turkey often taking centre stage. But it can be an overwhelming experience for some, especially if you haven’t cooked it before or aren’t used to cooking for big groups. Planning ahead is the best way to stay on top of things in the Christmas kitchen. Last year, over 80,000 people visited the safefood website between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with the most popular searches including: how to defrost a turkey; where to store it; cooking times; whether to stuff it or not; and how to know when it’s properly cooked.”

“We’re here to take the stress out of Christmas for cooks and whatever cooking method, timings or recipes you use, you know your turkey is properly cooked when there’s no pink meat in the thickest part of the breast and thigh, the juices run clear and the meat is piping hot throughout. Our website is stuffed with lots of useful resources including a turkey cooking-time-calculator, how-to videos, lots of tasty Christmas recipes. And for any last-minute questions on Christmas Day itself, our safefood Chefbot will also be available to answer questions through Facebook messenger”

Supporting safefood’s Christmas food safety campaign, Chef Adrian Martin said; “Christmas Day is one of the most enjoyable times of year. It’s a day when you can share a special, traditional dinner with your friends and family. However, it can be stressful to prepare a safe, tasty and nutritious meal for a large group of family and relations. It’s important that proper food hygiene practices are followed to ensure no one gets sick. My top tip is to have a plan on the run up to Christmas. You can find everything you need to ease the stress and help you cook safely this Christmas Day on”

- Ends -

For more information or to request an interview, please contact

Emma Walsh / Amy Pilgrim

Wilson Hartnell

Tel: +353 1 669 0030  

Mob: +353 87 317 0897 (Emma Walsh) / +353 87 261 3300 (Amy Pilgrim)

Email: /


Dermot Moriarty / Julie Carroll


Tel: 00353 1 448 0600

Mob: 00353 86 381 1034 (Dermot) / 00353 86 150 3047 (Julie)

Reference: ¹Irish Farmers Association (IFA) Poultry Sector 2015.

Editors notes

About the research

The research quoted in this campaign was conducted by iReach. iReach Insights use proprietary research panels across consumer and business groups, built on a nationally representative model. This study was conducted from the 21st – 29th November 2018 as part of the iReach Consumer Nationwide Omnibus survey delivering 1,001 responses on a nationally representative basis.

12 tips for a healthier Christmas

1) Be fridge ready

Get your fridge ready for the festive season by:

Give it a good clean with warm soapy water.

Re-arrange the shelves to make room for your turkey.

Store your turkey in a covered dish on the bottom shelf so drips won’t land on ready to eat foods which could spread germs leaving these foods unsafe to eat.

Throw away food past their use-by date.

For extra fridge space, store vegetables and drinks (except milk & fruit juices) in a cool place.

2) Buy the right turkey

When deciding on the size of your turkey, think of how many people you’re cooking for and whether you want any leftovers. Remember children eat less than adults. Based on the number of people you’re feeding, you can calculate the size of the turkey you need.

turkeys and the time it takes to cook them

If you’re unsure, ask your butcher.

3) Defrosting time

Give yourself enough time to defrost your turkey. Allow 24 hours for every 4 - 5 pounds / 2 - 2.5kg. If you’ve a 7.5kg / 15lb turkey, it will take up to 3 days to defrost so you should start defrosting on December 22nd. The best way to defrost it is to place it on a dish or tray on the bottom shelf of your fridge.

You'll know a frozen turkey is completely thawed when...

4) Never wash the bird

Don’t wash your turkey as this splashes food poisoning bacteria around your kitchen through drips, drops and splashes.

If you do need to clean the turkey, wipe it with a disposable paper towel, discarding the used paper towel and any packaging directly in to the bin. Handle your turkey as little as possible and always wash your hands and surfaces thoroughly with warm soapy water.

5) Cooking your turkey

To prevent food poisoning you should check the turkey is cooked thoroughly. Here’s how to cook a roast turkey.

Use our turkey cooking time calculator to find out the cooking time for your turkey. 

6) Get stuffed

Only cook a stuffed turkey in a fan oven, for other types of ovens cook your stuffing in a separate dish.

safefood research shows that when a turkey is stuffed, it is the centre of the stuffing that is slowest to cook. So with stuffed turkeys, it is essential you check the stuffing itself is piping hot all the way through.

Try not to overstuff the turkey; use a maximum of 10% of the weight of the bird in stuffing for example no more than 500g of stuffing for a 5kg turkey.

7) Be patient, let the turkey rest

Don’t rush to carve a stuffed turkey. A way to make sure the stuffing is properly cooked, without risking overcooking the meat, is to remove the turkey from the oven when the meat is fully cooked and leave it to rest for 30 minutes, loosely covered in tinfoil.

8) Is it cooked?

Using a clean fork or skewer, pierce the thickest part of the breast and thigh. You’ll know it’s cooked when:

It’s piping hot throughout.

Its juices run clear.

There is no pink meat left.

Any stuffing is piping hot throughout.

9) What to do with leftovers

Cover your leftovers and put them in the fridge within two hours of cooking. Make sure meat is cooled as quickly as possible – cutting it into pieces will help with this. Once in the fridge, any leftovers should be eaten within three days.

10) Freeze them

If freezing leftover meat or poultry, make sure it is stored in a suitable container for freezing. Freeze cooked meat for no more than 6 months – this is for quality rather than safety.

11) Only reheat once

When re-heating food, ensure it is piping hot all the way throughout. Make sure food is only re-heated once!

12) Healthier options

If you’re looking for healthier options at Christmas, you can also:

Trim the skin from your turkey or fat from your ham.

Try a breadcrumb, nut and seed stuffing instead of sausage.

Roast potatoes in a little vegetable oil as a healthy alternative to butter.

Steaming vegetables instead of boiling or roasting them.

Adrian Martin’s Top Tips for Christmas Cooking

What kind of turkey?

Remember to buy your turkey as close to Christmas as possible and store it in your fridge or freezer as soon as you can. There are a few types of turkey you can choose, these include:

  • Traditional free-range turkeys on the bone ranging from 3kg – 8kg.
  • Boned and rolled turkeys, stuffed or unstuffed: this is the whole turkey taken off the bone and rolled and tied into a nice joint. It contains the white breast meat as well as the darker leg meat.
  • Other options are: The Turkey Crown (white breast meat still on the bone) or boneless turkey breast (just the white meat), these are perfect for smaller gathering.

My top tips for preparing, cooking and storing your turkey

The first thing to remember about cooking Christmas dinner this year is not to stress out, it’s just another Sunday roast. Why don’t you try get some prep done the day before, like making your soup, having the dessert ready and peeling and chopping all your vegetables. You want to relax and enjoy yourself on Christmas day, so delegate out the different jobs. 

  1. Turkey breast can be lean so covering the breast with strips of bacon or prosciutto will help keep the moisture in and add extra flavour.
  2. It’s really important that you never wash your turkey, as this spreads germs everywhere. You can rub butter over the bird and under the skin to help flavour the Turkey and the skin and season it with salt and pepper.  Just be sure that before and after you handle your turkey, you wash your hands with warm soapy water and dry with a clean towel.
  3. Always baste the turkey during the cooking process, I advise every hour.
  4. Sit the bird on a trivet of vegetables, such as carrots, celery and onion. This creates a wonderful base for making gravy and you can keep the cooking juices from the roasting tin to make your gravy – delicious!
  5. A turkey will cook more evenly if it is not over stuffed, consider loosely filling the cavity with garlic and thyme, or small wedges of lemon or clementine. Over-stuffing will mean the heat won’t get to the centre and your turkey won’t cook.
  6. Always allow the turkey to rest before you serve. Do this by covering with tin foil and then with a couple of tea towels. This will ensure the bird can rest without losing too much heat and it also allows all the juice back into the bird for a moist turkey.
  7. Leftover turkey should be covered and stored in the fridge within two hours of cooking. Before storing it, allow it to cool. You can help it cool down by removing all the meat from the carcass and cutting it into smaller pieces. Store in an air tight container in the fridge.
  8. Remember to use up the carcass, you can make stock for soup.

How do you know your turkey is cooked?

  1. At the thickest part of the leg the juices should run clear from the bird.
  2. Ensure there is no pink meat
  3. The turkey should be piping hot all the way through
  4. If you have a good thermometer (this might be a nice Christmas present) and probe the thigh, it should read about 75oC.

Carving the turkey

  1. Make sure your knife is very sharp.
  2. Hold the turkey secure with a large fork.
  3. Cut the skin between the thigh and the breast.
  4. Bend the thigh outwards, cut through the hip joint, removing whole leg.
  5. Separate the thigh from the drumstick.
  6. Cut towards wing, cut through the wing joint.
  7. Hold the fork against the side of the breast.
  8. Slice evenly starting at the neck cavity.
  9. Lift the slices off with the fork and knife.