By: Keeba Smith

When you think of the holidays, you probably think of a traditional meal with turkey, dressing, macaroni and cheese and dinner rolls.  But not everyone has what many consider to be a traditional holiday meal.  More and more odd holiday traditional items are popping up each year.  But the ideal question is ‘Are They Safe?’


A turducken is a layered poultry dish that has become especially popular during the holiday season.  The idea came from Louisiana where thousands of them are commercially prepared each year.  It is a deboned stuffed chicken inside a deboned stuffed duck inside a deboned stuffed turkey.  The name is comprised of syllables from the words “turkey,” “duck,” and “chicken.”  The finished product resembles a whole turkey and is completely boneless.

Turducken requires safe food handling and thorough cooking to prevent foodborne illness.  It is important to follow the four safety guidelines to keep food safe:

  • Clean- Wash hands and surfaces often
  • Separate- Don’t cross-contaminate
  • Cook- Cook to proper temperatures
  • Chill- Refrigerate promptly

When cooking any meat or poultry product, USDA strongly recommends using a food thermometer to ensure the turducken has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165° F throughout the product.

Safe Handling of Turducken Ingredients

  • Raw meats should immediately be placed in the refrigerator (40° F or below) within two hours of purchase from the store.
  • Poultry should be wrapped and securely placed in safe container to prevent cross-contamination with ready-to-eat food.
  • Raw turkey, duck, and chicken should not be stored longer than 2 days before deboning, assembling and cooking.
  • If the turducken has been purchased through mail order, make sure it arrives frozen with a cold source in an insulated carton. It should be transferred immediately to the freezer.  If the turducken arrives warm, notify the company.  Do not use the product.

Creating a Turducken

  • Always wash hands in warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling any raw meat or poultry.
  • Keep the raw poultry and their juices away from other food when handling and deboning the three birds.
  • Stuffing should be made immediately before assembling the turducken.
  • The birds and stuffing should not stay out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours while assembling.
  • Stuffing should be pack loosely, not too tight, to promote efficient heat transfer during cooking.
  • After cutting raw poultry, wash cutting board, knife, and counter tops with hot, soapy water and sanitize using a solution of 1 tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach per 1 gallon of water.

Roasting the Turducken and Handling Leftovers

  • For home-prepared turducken, roast immediately after assembly.
  • The oven should be set no lower than 325° F for roasting the turducken.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure that all layers of the turducken and stuffing reach a minimum safe internal temperature of 165° F. Check the temperature in several places in the birds and stuffing, especially the center bird.
  • Cooked turducken should be sliced and served with 2 hours after cooking. If not served within 2 hours, then slice and cut in smaller portions and store in refrigerator to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Leftovers should be store in a shallow container within 2 hours of cooking.
  • Use the leftovers within 3 to 4 days after cooking or freeze for longer storage.


Tiger meat is a holiday “NO NO!”  While there are many unique holiday dishes that go against the norm, none is more unsafe than “Tiger Meat” or “cannibal sandwich.”  Tiger meat is popular dish in the Midwest that is served at many holiday parties.  It is often prepared as a holiday hors d’oeuvre.  It is a mixture of raw ground beef and raw eggs with other seasoning to serve on a cracker.  While this practice is slowly declining, many people are keeping this tradition and putting everyone at risk to contract a foodborne illness.

Eating raw or undercooked ground beef and eggs poses a health risk to healthy individuals and an even great health risk for individuals with reduced immune systems.  Individuals at increased risk include pregnant women, young children, and people living the cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, or autoimmune disorders.

Unsafe to Eat Raw Ground Beef

Eating raw or undercooked ground beef is dangerous because it may contain harmful bacteria, such as E. coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria.  Beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160° F to be sure that all bacteria is destroyed.

Unsafe to Eat Raw Eggs

As with all dishes containing egg, Salmonella bacteria is a major concern.  The bacteria can be found both on the outside and the inside of the shell.  This means that just washing the eggs does not remove the risk of foodborne illness.  To be sure you do not get ill, eggs and egg dishes should be cooked to 160° F.


Holiday traditions are simply what you make them.  New traditions are made each year and what is traditional to you may not be traditional to someone else.  While the traditions may differ, food safety should and must be practiced by everyone.  Remember a bout of food poisoning will put a damper of anyone’s holiday spirit.  Keep you and your family safe and healthy this holiday season!