Prue Leith unwittingly left fans hotly debating food safety today, after she suggested freezing turkey before Christmas day
She was merely trying to suggest ways to take the strain out of cooking a traditional family Christmas dinner.
But Prue Leith unwittingly left fans hotly debating an old chestnut today. For the Great British Bake Off judge advised home cooks to stuff and freeze their turkey in advance.
And this raised fears over food safety. A stuffed turkey is harder to defrost properly and takes longer to cook through. If it is not thoroughly defrosted and cooked, there is a risk of food poisoning from bugs such as salmonella and campylobacter.
The issue was aired after Miss Leith revealed her foolproof way to ensure Christmas diner is a success, avoiding turkey that is too dry, roast potatoes that won’t crisp up and soggy sprouts.
The celebrity chef says she ‘cheats like anything’ by freezing a boned, stuffed turkey and parboiling her potatoes the day before, although she did not reveal the ingredients in her chestnut stuffing.
Miss Leith had hinted in the Daily Mail’s Weekend magazine that she prepares and freezes parts of her Christmas dinner. But speaking ahead of Channel 4’s two Bake Off festive specials, she revealed the full extent of her Christmas plans. The 77-year-old said: ‘I have already got prepared a boned turkey which is stuffed with chestnut stuffing but I will have to remember to take it out a couple of days before as it’s pretty huge and will need a good thaw.
‘The most important part for me is to have a stress free Christmas day. So many people ruin their day because they are not used to feeding that many people and panic, they aren’t necessarily experienced cooks. A huge bird and all the extras can give you collywobbles. You should be relaxed, your friends and family haven’t come to judge you or expect a Michelin-star lunch, they just want to be with you and have a lovely day.’
‘The most important part for me is to have a stress free Christmas day’ Prue said. Pictured here with fellow Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood and series 8 winner Sophie Faldo
Most food safety experts say it is safe to freeze a stuffed turkey as long as it is then thoroughly defrosted. And Marks & Spencer sells a stuffed turkey crown that is marked as suitable for home freezing.
However, you should allow two days for a large stuffed turkey to defrost. If it is not thawed thoroughly, it may not cook evenly, meaning harmful bacteria could survive. Eating undercooked turkey can lead to food poisoning, so no pink meat should be visible when you cut into the thickest part and the juices should run clear.
Despite the GBBO judges advice, eating turkey that’s not thoroughly defrosted can be dangerous. Prue (far right) is pictured here with co-stars Paul Hollywood, Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding
There are almost 500,000 cases of campylobacter poisoning in the UK every year, with the Christmas holidays a peak time for incidents. Most are a result of poorly prepared or cooked poultry. The bug, which causes vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps and fever, claims around 100 lives a year.
Dr Slim Dinsdale, a food industry consultant, said: ‘It is not a problem [to stuff a turkey and freeze it] but she must make sure that it is fully defrosted and up to room temperature before she puts it in the oven. It is a big mass for the heat to penetrate.
‘It would probably be better to freeze the turkey and the stuffing separately, and thaw them both before combining.’
The Food Standards Agency advises ‘defrost your turkey in the fridge or somewhere cool’ to avoid growth of germs
The Food Standards Agency says: ‘Defrost your turkey in the fridge if possible, or somewhere cool – but not the bathroom or shed – to slow the growth of germs and keep it safe and fresh.
‘Cover while defrosting and place at the bottom of the fridge to avoid cross-contamination.
‘To cook your stuffing inside the turkey, you’ll need to extend the cooking time to ensure that everything is properly cooked. This is particularly important when cooking turkey or chicken.’
The FSA recommends cooking your stuffing in a separate roasting tin. It says: ‘The bird will cook more easily and the cooking guidelines will be more accurate if it isn’t stuffed.’