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FOULED BY FOWL
Readers of The Great American Barbeque Instruction Book will recall that,
in it, I caution against smoking turkeys until you know what you are doing.
Readers of this column know that I am Mr. Clean when I handle poultry and I
always use the thermometer to make certain that the internal temperature is
at least 165 degrees before taking it off the grill.
You, no doubt, recall that I caution to always thoroughly and carefully
scrub the knives, cutting boards, plates, pans and hands under hot soapy
water after cutting or handling raw poultry. I even carefully clean the
thermometer after checking temperature on poultry on the grill.
Yes, friends, I, Smoky Hale, Guru of the Grill, served up smoked turkey
with the old enemy Salmonella still alive and kicking. It hospitalized two
and made several quite ill. This is not the sort of information that one
would normally want spread about. But, it is worth my embarrassment if
telling the tale will keep you from doing the same thing.
Starting out, I did everything by the book. I thawed the frozen turkey
breast overnight in the fridge, then submerged it in its package in a sink
full of cold water - after I had carefully scrubbed the sink. When it was
fully thawed, I removed the skin and trimmed it well.
I brought my grill to 200 degrees, laid on a pile of green fruit wood and
hickory and placed the breast on the grill. I maintained the temperature
between 175 and 200 degrees for about 8 hours before I checked the internal
temperature of the breast with my industrial thermometer. It read about 145
degrees, so I added a few more coals and green wood, closed the lid and went
away to play.
About 30 minutes later a thunderstorm commenced and hung around for too
long. When it slackened a bit, I checked and found that the internal
temperature of the breast had not risen appreciably. True to my code of
caution, I took the breast inside, halved and deboned it to allow better
heat penetration and placed it in a 350 oven for about 30 minutes.
When I checked temperature again by inserting the thermometer in a
different location, it read 165 degrees and the two breast halves had all
the appetizing appearance and delicious aroma of a perfectly smoked turkey
breast. The taste lived up to the appearance. It was moist, tender and
delicious. One half was consumed promptly. The other was sliced and
refrigerated (after an hour or so) and served at lunch the following day.
The second side was not the one in which I had inserted the thermometer.
It was three days later before symptoms began to show. The ill suffered
four more days of misery before the final diagnosis was made. The days of
misery for several people and several thousand dollars of expense might have
been prevented, if I had checked the temperature of both breasts before
taking them out of the oven.
There are two bacteria quite common to poultry and eggs. They are
Staphylococcus and Salmonella. Staphylococcus is normally ingested from
uncooked eggs - as in soft scrambled or in meringue or the picnic potato
salad. The onset of symptoms from Staph normally starts within four hours
with nausea and diarrhea. While it can be quite severe, your body normally
rids itself of the bacteria within a few hours and recovery begins.
Replacement of lost fluids is an important part of treatment. Rest and being
kind to your stomach for a few days normally hastens recovery.
Salmonella is a germ of a different color. It lounges around in your body
for from two to six days gathering strength like a hurricane. It comes on
with fever, severe headache, nausea and diarrhea. In most cases, your body
expels most of the intruders and your natural defenses take over to handle
recovery - much like the recovery from Staph. But sometimes it is a monster.
Because symptoms do not occur until long after the tainted food is eaten,
Salmonellosis it is harder to diagnose and attribute to a particular cause.
It is usually only accurately identified after a culture is made.
Dr. Donnie Smith, a Gastroenterologist of some note, advises that anytime a
combination of fever and severe headaches occur, contact your family doctor
promptly since they may be symptoms of several illnesses. If diarrhea and
vomiting become violent or do not promptly subside, contact with your
physician is also appropriate.
The best defense against Staph and Salmonella is the old "Carnie" maxim:
"Never give the suckers an even chance." Buy fresh or fresh frozen poultry.
Keep it cold. Keep it clean. Wash everything carefully. And what ever else
you do, cook it until it is all at least 165 degrees.
Personally, I am changing my tactics. In the future, instead of truly
smoking poultry, I will roast it in heavy smoke at a temperature of not less
than 225 degrees. The bird will pass through the temperature zone where
bacteria can thrive much more quickly. And I don't believe you can tell the
difference in the taste and texture. And I know I'll sleep easier for the
few days following its consumption.
C. Clark Hale
8168 Hwy 98 E.
McComb, MS 39648
Smoky's 5th basic position for really great barbecue'n.
'According to Smoky' is © by C. Clark Hale
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