Can You Eat Raw Turkey?

by Charlie
Raw turkey

Have you ever wondered whether you can eat turkey raw? There are many surprising foods that can be eaten raw, especially if they are prepared in specific ways (e.g. frozen to remove parasites first), so is turkey one of those?

You may have heard of chicken sashimi in Japan. If chicken can be eaten raw, can turkey safely be consumed without being cooked first, or is this a recipe for disaster?

Can you eat raw turkey? The answer is that you can eat raw turkey, but very few people do, and there are many warnings against doing so because of the potential bacteria that the turkey could contain. This is usually a result of poor farm practices or bad handling once it enters the food processing chain, but these things still matter when it comes to whether it’s safe to eat.

Should You Try Eating Raw Turkey?

You probably should not just eat turkey you have purchased from a supermarket raw. This has not been handled to minimize the risks associated with raw consumption, and may harbor bacteria that could hurt you. If you want to eat raw turkey, you should look to purchase it from somewhere that specializes in sashimi and has handled it properly.

How well you can digest raw meat will also depend on your current habits. If you never eat anything vaguely resembling raw meat or fish, you may find that raw turkey gives you an upset stomach – even if you have bought it from a reputable place. Of course, you may find that you can digest it fine; this is not a hard rule.

You may find that some old recipes call for raw turkey, but these pre-date our modern understanding of food poisoning and the bacteria that can be harbored in raw meat. It is best not to follow these recipes, as they don’t have the modern insight on meat handling and could make you ill.

What About “Rare” Turkey?

Next, you might be wondering about turkey that is partially cooked but not fully cooked. Can you eat rare turkey? Again, the answer would be that this is probably best avoided unless the turkey has been specifically processed to minimize the risk of bacteria being present in the flesh. We have cooking temperature recommendations specifically to reduce these risks, so ignoring these increases the risk.

Rare turkey might sound fancy and interesting, but it is not really a dish you want to try unless you know exactly what you are doing. When cooking turkey from a supermarket, follow the instructions on the packaging, and always check that the meat is cooked through.

Insert a knife into the thickest part of the turkey, and check the color. The juices should be clear, and the flesh should be white throughout, not pink or red. If the color is not yet right, the turkey should be cooked for longer.

You are also likely to find that rare turkey does not taste good to you, especially if you are used to the cooked version. Pink turkey is quite an off-putting sight, and while it may be juicier, it may also taste funny, or have an odd texture that is difficult to enjoy.

Of course, you don’t want to eat turkey that has dried out in the oven either, so there is a fine balance between cooking it enough and cooking it too much, but you shouldn’t be aiming to get rare turkey in most circumstances, unless you are a professional and understand exactly what you are doing – and have guests who are keen on the unusual taste and texture!

What are the Risks of Eating Undercooked or Raw Turkey?

We are all familiar with the salmonella risk associated with undercooked meats and their juices. However, there are other potential risks, including E. coli, Yersinia, Clostridium perfringens, and Campylobacter, among others. These are often associated with food poisoning and diarrhea, as well as further symptoms.

Eating raw or undercooked turkey is unlikely to have dangerous consequences in most circumstances. That doesn’t mean you want to risk food poisoning, however. It is highly unpleasant and can take days to pass, and that means it’s important to practice good hygiene at all times when handling meats.

For example, raw meat juices need to be kept away from other food to avoid cross-contamination, and it is also important to use different knives and preparation surfaces for raw and cooked meats for the same reason. You need to wash down surfaces and thoroughly clean your hands after handling raw meat so you don’t spread the bacteria around the home.

What If You Want to Try Raw Turkey?

If you decide you really want to try raw turkey, you should familiarize yourself with the risks, and then choose a reputable supplier. Check into their supply chain and make sure that the meat is handled to your satisfaction, minimizing the risk.

You can then try raw turkey. It may make you ill, but many people report being able to eat it without any consequences, so you may find that you are fine and suffer from no unpleasant effects whatsoever.

If you are going to try raw turkey, it is highly recommended that you only eat a very small amount to begin with. This will reduce the risk of illness, and also reduce the waste if you find that you don’t enjoy the turkey.

Wait a few days to see if it has an effect on you before you consider eating more. If you enjoy it, you can increase the quantity slowly, but if it does make you ill, a small amount will do less harm overall.

If you are fine, you can make raw turkey part of your diet, but you should always keep quantities relatively small. Eating a lot of raw turkey increases your risk of contracting bacteria and giving yourself food poisoning.

Do not eat raw meat if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, immuno-compromised, or elderly. You should also avoid feeding raw meat to young children. These groups are all at greater risk of food poisoning.

Final Thoughts

Raw turkey, on the whole, is not considered fit for consumption. If you want to eat raw turkey, you should do so in small quantities with caution, and be prepared for it to have an unpleasant effect for a day or two. Hopefully, you will be able to enjoy raw turkey, but it is very much an “eat at your own risk” food!

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