In whole, ready-to-cook poultry, giblets are located in a bag in the abdominal cavity. They will not be from the original bird. Giblets may also be purchased separately as livers, hearts, or a combination thereof, and labeled accordingly. At home, immediately place giblets in a refrigerator that maintains 40° F or below, and use within one or two days; or freeze at 0° F or below. If kept frozen continuously, they will be safe indefinitely. However, for best quality, use giblets within three to four months of freezing.
There are three safe ways to defrost giblets and poultry containing them: in the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave oven. Never defrost giblets on the kitchen counter.
As a rule of thumb, allow about 24 hours for every 5 pounds of whole poultry with giblets to thaw in the refrigerator. A 1-pound carton of frozen turkey livers will take about 24 hours. Once defrosted, the giblets may be stored in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. During this time, if giblets are not used, they can be safely refrozen.
Cold Water Thawing:
Leave the giblets or poultry containing them in the original airtight packaging or place in a leak-proof bag. Submerge the product in cold water and change the water every 30 minutes to make sure it stays cold. A 1-pound carton of livers should defrost in one or two hours.
Cook giblets and poultry containing them immediately after microwave defrosting because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook. Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria that may have been present may not have been destroyed. Foods defrosted in the microwave or by the cold-water method should be cooked before refreezing.
Traditionally, chicken or turkey giblets are cooked by simmering in water for use in flavoring soups, gravies or poultry stuffing. Once cooked, the liver will become crumbly and the heart and gizzard will soften and become easy to chop. Cooked giblets should have a firm texture and their juices should run clear. Casseroles and stuffing containing giblets should be cooked to 165° F. Chicken giblets are commonly fried or broiled. Leftovers should be refrigerated within two hours.
Accidental Cooking in Packaging:
Some giblets are paper wrapped before being inserted into the poultry body cavity. In this case, there would be no concern if the giblets were accidentally cooked inside the bird to a safe temperature. If giblets were packed in a plastic bag, and the bag has been altered or melted by the cooking process, do not use the giblets or the poultry because harmful chemicals may have leached into the surrounding meat. If the plastic bag was not altered, the giblets and poultry should be safe to use as long as the meat is fully cooked.
WASH HANDS, UTENSILS, SINK AND EVERYTHING THAT HAS BEEN IN CONTACT WITH RAW TURKEY. Sanitize the counter, sinks and any containers or trays that have been used. Use a solution of 1 teaspoon of unscented chlorine bleach in 1 quart of water, and let dry completely.
Source: USDA/FSIS (2006, April). Safety of Giblets
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· Turkey Basics: Turkey Thawing Hints
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