The sous vide of the suburbs: Cooking Thanksgiving in the dishwasher

Ben Raymond is an MS student at North Carolina State Universit yand self-proclaimed beer aficionado, focusing on food safety through social media, barf banter, and creating new foods.

Raymond writes:

As I wait impatiently for my girlfriend to come back from work in Boston, I’m hoping the freezing rain and sleet will hold off until later tonight. We have a three-hour drive this afternoon to Vermont, to visit my family for Thanksgiving.dishwasher

Ben Chapman forwarded me a piece from the L.A. Times blog (thanks Michele -ben) on cooking a Thanksgiving dinner in the dishwasher (because I’ve become the dishwasher-cooking-food-safety guru of our group).

If you can’t seem to keep your Thanksgiving turkey moist in the oven, you may want to try your dishwasher. Yes, people have been using the kitchen washing machine to cook proteins and fish since the 1970s, but famed chef David Burke insists you can also use it to cook the star of your Thanksgiving meal.

But before you start shoving your entire turkey in the dishwasher, Burke’s recipe calls for two boneless turkey breasts, not the entire bird. The meat and herbs are packed tightly in plastic wrap then sealed in Tupperware containers before hitting the top shelf of the dishwasher for three cycles or about 3 hours and 25 minutes.

This cooking technique is getting some play in the social mediaverse as a way to make moist, tender chicken, fish, or even beef –sort of a sous vide for the suburbs (without the thermal immersion circulator).

Earlier this fall I did a quick and dirty test of this technique in my own dishwasher. With some nifty water-proof stainless data-loggers, I’ve run few cycles in the dishwasher to see if you can safely cook various proteins. Is it a safe method? The data I’ve generated points to, unsurprisingly, sort of.

Salmon cooks nicely and reaches a safe (and tender) time and temperature combination as suggested 145° F.  Even poultry may be cooked safely in the dishwasher (at least in my home, no promises for any other setup), but only if you have expensive tools to monitor the cooking process. The data shows the proteins were held at temperatures below 165° F, but still hot enough and for sufficient time to effectively be cooked (as per FSIS’ appendix A. As a home cook, armed with a tip sensitive digital thermometer, the meat is unlikely to ever register the recommended 165° F internal temperature.

image-copyThere’s lots of variability though. Other dishwashers may be hotter than mine, or not (we have very hot water in my house, over 145° F from the tap).

All of this effort the chicken I cooked in my dishwasher was gross. It never got hot enough for the proteins to really cook and move past the rubberyish texture of raw of chicken. I like my steaks medium rare, but poultry? No thanks.  In my house we will be sticking with our traditional, yet boring, oven to roast our Thanksgiving bird.

Share your food (safety) porn this Thanksgiving

A walk through the farmers market, grocery store or restaurant will provide a glance into a not-so-new but increasingly prevalent subculture: cataloging food porn through smartphone cameras. This is spilling over into homes this week as my Facebook and Twitter feeds are already being populated with pics of turkeys brining and thawing.IMG_2587 copy

There’s an abundance of tips and strategies for a safe and tasty Thanksgiving circulating on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and news websites. There’s not a plethora of pictures of the safety in action.

Started to increase the dialogue around food safety through Twitter and Instagram, the #citizenfoodsafety project has generated over 200 pictures of handwashing signs, dirty toilets, thermometers and cross-contamination since September.

Snap a pic of your food safety practices this Thanksgiving and tag with #citizenfoodsafety and/or an additional special hashtag for this weekend: #citizenturkey. Jump in, share pictures of your meal and food safety in action with the online food safety nerds.

317 sick in Foster Farms Salmonella outbreak; just cook it still doesn’t cut it; skating, hockey, Thanksgiving turkey

Amy, Sorenne and I began eight weeks of skating lessons at the local arena Satuday (I suck after seven years of no ice, thank you Kansas), started cooking the Canadian Thanksgiving feast at 3 a.m Sunday, and have had hockey on in the background since 4 a.m.

I try to be super-extra careful when cooking a big bird because of the potential for cross-contamination, and the potential of sickening a bunch therm.turkey.oct.13of what-would-become former friends.

But in some cases, extra care is not enough.

As the Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak linked to Foster Farms hits 317 sick, Costco has ordered a recall of nearly 40,000 pounds of rotisserie chickens after one tested positive for Salmonella on Friday.

That’s a cooked chicken. To paraphrase Bill Marler, if Costco can’t cook the poop out of a bird, why are consumers expected to?

Still, company types, many government types and other types, insist all will be well if the chicken is just cooked properly.

This is a terrible message, and not scientifically accurate.

Chapman at least got a few correct points in when he told Live Science cross-contamination can happen at any point in the cooking and handling process, starting at the grocery store, don’t wash the bird, and use a damn thermometer.

(I gave one to an IT friend here for the Thanksgiving food orgy.)

After threatening Monday to close three Foster Farms processing plants, the U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed on Thursday to allow the plants to continue operating with advanced, super-secret safety procedures.

Neither the company nor USDA will say what these procedures are. Doesn’t build confidence.

Which would be an additional reason the list of retailers recalling Fosters products is growing.

Lynne Terry of the Oregonian writes that Costco’s El Camino Real store in San Francisco, Calif., is pulling and products over Salmonella contamination. The recall includes nearly 8,800 Kirkland Signature Foster Farms rotisserie chickens and more than 310 units of Kirkland Farm rotisserie chicken soup, rotisserie chicken leg quarters and rotisserie chicken salad.

The products were sold to Costco customers at the El Camino Real store between Sept. 11 and Sept. 23, the notice said. The chickens were processed at three Foster Farms plants in central California.

Fred Meyer and QFC stores have withdrawn chicken from the same plants. They were sold under the brand names of Simple Truth Organic and Kroger Value. The voluntary withdrawal also includes deli chicken and rotisserie chickens.

Melinda Merrill, Fred Meyer spokeswoman, said the stores are still selling the Foster Farms labeled poultry that came from a plant that’s not been implicated in the outbreak.

This outbreak differs in that the variety of salmonella is especially virulent.

There are seven strains of salmonella Heidelberg involved in the outbreak. Several of them are antibiotic-resistant and “one of the strains that we’ve tested is resistant to seven antibiotics,” said Christopher Braden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention division of foodborne diseases.

Of the people infected, 42% have been hospitalized — an unusually high percentage, according to the CDC.

“That’s about twice what we would normally see for a salmonella outbreak,” Braden said. “We think that’s at least in part due to the fact that a number of these strains have resistance to one or more antibiotics.”

Thirteen percent of those sickened have salmonella septicemia, a serious, life-threatening, whole-body inflammation, Braden said. Normal for salmonella would be “just a few percent,” he said.

In a statement, Foster Farms CEO Ron Foster said “we have worked relentlessly to address these issues and will continue to do so as we work to regain consumer trust and confidence in the Foster Farms brand.”

Those comments do not bolster consumer confidence.

If you’ve got a good food safety system, brag about it. Because some companies are better.


Turkey on the table; praise be to Canadian Thanksgiving

I paid $9.50/kg for the Canadian Thanksgiving turkey we’ll be carving this Sunday afternoon (after reaching a thermometer-verified 165F or higher; I’m not one of those you-can’t-over-cook-a-turkey-that’s-what-the-gravy-is-for folks).

That’s about $4.50 a pound.

I told the butcher, one of the few to stock turkey (he also has crocodile and kangaroo) that in North America it would be aust.turkey.label_.12-225x300$0.99/pound. Market demand, I guess.

Turkey’s just not that big in Australia, even though we have dozens wandering the streets in our near-to-downtown Brisbane suburb.

The cooking instructions on the label are the same as last year – scientifically incorrect and suck. No safe cooking temperature, no thermometer advice, and says to wash the bird.

No one will be washing the bird in this house.

Last year we had about 30 people show up, and the locals were amazed by such a thing – a turkey.

Dr. Temple Grandin is featured in a video about the turkey industry designed to give the public a look at how the birds are raised, slaughtered and readied for Thanksgiving dinner.

The National Turkey Federation and the American Meat Institute paid for the video which features Grandin with a flock of 1,500 birds and takes the viewer all the way through the stunning and slaughter process.

I like the transparency. It undercuts any attempts at conspiracy theories.

But a 13-minute video? Edit it to two minutes.

My friend Jim Romahn asks, why hasn’t the Canadian turkey industry, which is far more organized than in the United States, done something like this long ago?

“I’m really pleased that the industry wanted the public to see this process because I think we need to show people how it’s just done right in a typical plant,” Grandin said in a news release.

“There’s a lot of good work going on in animal agriculture and I’m glad we’re telling our story openly and honestly.”  

Brunch will be served Oct. 13 at 2 p.m. Show up if you’re around.

Know your camel: Turkish men hospitalized after drinking camel’s milk, urine

Two Turkish men were hospitalized on arrival to Turkey after drinking camel’s milk and urine while on an umrah visit, Hurriyet Daily News reported. 

The men believed the camel’s milk and urine to be good for health, claiming it was written in a hadith. An imam, according to the Turkish men, also drank the gonza.camelmilk and urine with them. 

The visitors were hospitalized due to high fever and unusual levels of liver enzymes. Further tests revealed that the two men had been infected with the “alkhurma” virus, reportedly catching the virus from the milk.  

The alkhurma virus is very dangerous and highly contagious and has a fatality rate of 25 to 35 percent, daily Hürriyet reported

İhsan Özkes, a retired religious cleric and current member of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), denied the existence of any hadith that would encourage people to drink camel’s milk and urine.

“Those who did drink it must have been ignorant,” he said.

Salmonella sickened Martha Stewart last month after ‘handling so many turkeys’

Martha Stewart told the New York Post’s Page Six she was confined to her bed for several days last month because of a salmonella infection, adding, “I never get sick, but I came down with salmonella. I think I caught it because I was handling so many turkeys around Thanksgiving. I was on the ‘Today’ show, I did a number of other [Thanksgiving] appearances. It really hit me hard and I was in bed for days. It was terrible.”

A Top Chef Thanksgiving

Last night with the 80 degree temperatures outside, I curled up in bed with the seasonal spirit to watch the Top Chef Thanksgiving. The chefs split into teams with Emeril Lagasse and Tom Colicchio to cook their family favorite recipes.

On team Emeril, returning cheftestant Josie used her immunity to cook her team’s turkeys for the FareStart organization which trains disadvantaged individuals to become chefs. At some point her birds started looking blackened and she deemed the ovens to be too hot. She dialed down the temperature and played a guessing game.

During the meal the judges discussed the very pink meat on the birds:

“Not recommended by the USDA.”

“Coulda cooked a little more, unfortunately, but well seasoned.”

“Good flavor from the outside, but the inside was practically raw.”

All the while, there were no thermometers anywhere. Given the feedback, I presume the judges ate the pink birds.

Back in the kitchen Josie commented, “I’ve had my ups and downs on Top Chef, but, I’m happy with the turkey over all. But the question is, ‘is it overcooked?’ ‘is it dry?’ ‘is it moist?’” Josie was shocked when the judges told her it was undercooked.

Had she used a tip-sensitive digital thermometer, she would have known the answer. Blackened skin does not mean the turkey is cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165F.


Fail: Cargill recommends washing turkey

Cargill, the owners of the Honeysuckle White brand of turkey, may want to update its turkey prep instructions; and maybe before Christmas.

A reader sent in this label; I enlarged it but my aging eyes still couldn’t make out what it said.

According to the Honeysuckle White website,

“Leave the turkey in its original wrapping and place it on a tray in your refrigerator. Allow five hours of defrosting time per pound. For example, a 14-19 lb. turkey will need 3-4 days to thoroughly defrost. If your turkey hasn’t completely thawed by the time you’re ready to cook it, place it under cold, running water to accelerate the thawing process.”

This will spread Salmonella, Campylobacter and others throughout your kitchen, at home or in a restaurant.

Cargill also recommends, “Rinse the turkey both inside and out with cool water and pat it dry with paper towels.”

Guess Cargill’s not up on the science: don’t wash that bird (unless you killed it in your backyard with a bow and arrow in Kansas, sure, wash it to help get the feathers out; but I thought Cargill had sorta figured that out).

Talking turkey: Provide evidence-based information and let folks make their own risk decisions

I still listen to a lot of punk rock and I don’t really like being told what to do. I’m not sure many folks do. The approach I use is to provide the best available evidence culled from the literature to help eaters calculate the risks and benefits of food choices. Present the info in a compelling way and then step back to let the individual do their thing.

Hopefully the choice results in the least amount of barf. Eating has risks, whether it’s raw oysters, sprouts, or Thanksgiving dinner. USA Today’s Elizabeth Weise deconstructs the risks associated with cooking turkey and all the fixin’s:

Step away from the sink, and no one will get hurt.

You don’t need to wash your turkey before you roast it, and doing so can be dangerous. A British study found that washing poultry in the sink can spray bacteria up to 3 feet away. And with one in 50 turkeys estimated to be contaminated with salmonella, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food-safety inspectors, you don’t want a mist of turkey juice on your relish platter.

Given this contamination rate, the chef’s job is to keep the raw turkey juices away from anything that isn’t going to be cooked to 165 degrees, the temperature required to kill disease-causing bugs (the ones of interest in poultry -ben). Unfortunately, too many people start their feast preparations by plopping their turkey in the sink and giving it a good wash. There’s no need to do that. It’s a holdover from long ago when poultry routinely arrived with bits of blood and pinfeathers still attached. Cooks were instructed to wash the carcass well and use tweezers to remove any feathers that didn’t get plucked. With today’s modern processing, none of that is necessary. You just want to get the turkey into its pan and into the oven with as little dripping and splashing as possible.

If it’s a lack of refrigerator space that’s impeding your thawing, Doug Powell, a food-safety scientist at Kansas State University, notes that in any Northern climate, you can simply put the turkey outside in the garage in a closed cooler to keep out pets and vermin. His department wrote a paper on the topic and found that as long as the temperature is below 40 to 45 degrees it’s perfectly safe.

Then there’s the big question of whether it’s safe to lick the beaters when you’re making dessert. According to the Food and Drug Administration, approximately one in 20,000 eggs is contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis, the most common type of illness-causing salmonella. Benjamin Chapman, a(n assistant) professor of food safety at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, says he’s content to “let others make their own risk decisions.”
But for himself and his family, the answer is no (at least when I’m around and influence the decision – ben).

Check out these videos for risk-reduction steps:
Thawing the Turkey
Turkey Preparation and Preventing Cross-Contamination
How to tell when the turkey is safe to eat
Handling the Leftovers

How to have an uninvited Thanksgiving guest: Washing turkey, not using thermometer can be recipe for food poisoning

From a Kansas State University press release:

When it comes to your Thanksgiving turkey, a Kansas State University food safety expert has two tips that could help keep your holiday meal safer:

* Don’t give your turkey a bath.

* Always take your turkey’s temperature.

Washing the turkey before popping it in the oven may be something you saw your mom — or grandmother — do, but Doug Powell, professor of food safety, said it’s a practice where mom really didn’t know best.

“Washing the bird has long been disregarded because of the food safety risk of cross-contamination,” he said. “Do not wash that bird — you’ll spread bacteria everywhere.”

Studies have found food poisoning bacteria like campylobacter or salmonella are common on poultry carcasses and can easily be spread by the splashes from washing the bird, Powell said. That means the sink, countertops, water taps and anything else in the vicinity — including other food — can become cross-contaminated. Washing hands after handling and preparing the bird also is a must.

Once the unwashed bird is in the oven, Powell said cooks should do themselves a favor and rely on a good thermometer to let them know when the main attraction is ready. Turkey should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Just checking to see if the juices from the bird run clear when the bird is pricked isn’t an accurate indicator of its doneness.

“Color is a lousy indicator of safety,” Powell said. “No matter how you cook your bird, the key is to use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer to verify safety.”

To help keep foodborne illness from spoiling the Thanksgiving holiday, check out food safety infosheets, prepared by Powell and Benjamin Chapman, a food safety specialist and assistant professor of family and consumer sciences at North Carolina State University, available at Powell’s blog:

* For tips on why not to bathe the bird,

* For tips on preventing holiday foodborne illness,

* For tips on holiday meal safety,

A holiday food safety video also is available at And the Spanish and French translations of the infosheets can be found at and