We hope your family doesn’t have stories of the Thanksgiving food poisoning disaster of yesteryear. When you’re cooking lots of food at different temperatures, then cooling and storing it at room temperature, you’re always at risk for a foodborne illness.
This video helps outline safe food practices in a quick and easy format for you to stay ahead of any problems or concerns. We’ve also added our own tips for keeping your family safe this holiday season when it comes to food preparation!
Feel free to leave a us a comment if you have a funny story (even if it was only funny after the fact) about a cooking disaster!
The four easy steps
There are four easy steps that everyone should remember to keep their families safe from foodborne illnesses.
1. Clean: Ensure all surfaces and hands are clean before prepping any food, particularly appetizers that will just be sliced and left out. Illness-causing bacteria can survive in many places around your kitchen, including your hands, utensils, sponge, counters and cutting boards. Unless you wash your hands, utensils and surfaces the right way, you could spread bacteria to your food—and your family. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds to kill any lingering bacteria. Also remember to wash peeled fruits and vegetables since bacteria can hop from the outside to the inside during the peeling process.
2. Separate raw and prepared foods: Cross-contamination is how bacteria can spread. This occurs when juices from raw meat or germs from unclean objects touch cooked or ready-to-eat foods. When storing food in the refrigerator prior, make sure raw meat is wrapped tightly in a plastic bag to prevent dripping onto other foods. Also remember to frequently wash your reusable grocery bags since raw produce can leak in these bags and then spread bacteria to other food over multiple grocery trips. Ick!
3. Cook at the correct temperature: The most dangerous bacteria that cause food poisoning multiply the fastest between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s important to rely on a food thermometer when coking meats, especially those like turkey that you only do once a year, to ensure it’s cooked throughout. The only way to effectively kill all foodborne pathogens is to thoroughly cook the meat!
4. Cool and store food properly: It can be hard to drag yourself out of the food coma to clean up the kitchen immediately after eating. However, bacteria can start to grow on food as quickly as two hours after it’s been left out. If you plan to refrigerate leftovers, place the food in shallow containers. This will allow the food to cool faster and spend less time in the danger zone of 40-140 degrees. Finally, any leftovers that remain in the refrigerator four days after a meal need to be thrown out. If you plan to store foods for longer periods of time, store them in the freezer instead of the fridge.
Tips on the turkey
Cooking a turkey can be intimidating since many families only do it once a year. And because of this, you’re more likely to make mistakes that could lead to a foodborne illness. Remember that many variables can affect the cooking of a turkey, so start by thoroughly defrosting and monitoring cook times (depending on the number of pounds the bird is). Below is your quick guide to safe turkey cooking practices!
- Make sure the turkey is completely dethawed. Depending on the size of the bird, this process could take several days, so make sure to plan ahead.
- The oven should be set no lower than 325 degrees to bake the bird. Remember that ovens don’t heat evenly, so you might have cooler patches that aren’t heating the bird as hot as you think. This is why it’s doubly important to use a meat thermometer.
- Do not wash the turkey. Washing it will only speed bacteria into your sink and counter. The heat of the oven will kill off bad bacteria.
- Cook the turkey until it reaches 165°F as measured by a food thermometer. Check the turkey’s temperature by inserting the thermometer in three places: the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh, and the innermost part of the wing.
- Do not store stuffing inside a leftover turkey. Instead, remove the stuffing from the turkey and refrigerate the stuffing and the meat separately.
We hope that you have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving! Be sure to take pictures!
Also published on Medium.