The holidays are a time of family, food and fun. The last thing anyone wants around the holidays is to be sick which could table all of the planned holiday celebrations. To prevent contracting a foodborne illness, follow these tips to stay healthy and happy this holiday season.
Thawing a Turkey
Thawing of a turkey can be done properly in three different ways: via a refrigerator, microwave, or cold water. If thawing in the refrigerator, allow 24 hours for every four to five pounds of turkey you plan to cook. For example, a 16-20 pound bird could take up to five days to thaw in the refrigerator. You can also thaw in cold water but allow 30 minutes per pound. Seal the turkey securely in plastic to make sure no water leaks in and use cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes and cook it immediately once thawed. Don’t forget you can also use the microwave but before buying a turkey be sure it will fit in your microwave and use the owner’s manual to determine minutes per pound and the power level to thaw it. Remove all outside wrapping including the wire that holds the legs together and place on a microwave safe dish.
Proper Cooking Temperatures
Make sure to use a meat thermometer to check temperatures. For any of the following, make sure to cook to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit: turkey, chicken, stuffing, duck, goose, quail, pheasant, ham heated as leftovers, and any other leftovers. For egg dishes, venison, ground beef, pork, veal, or lamb, cook to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. For beef, pork, veal and lamb steaks, chops, or roasts, or fresh or raw ham, cook to 145 degrees Fahrenheit and allow it to rest three minutes prior to cutting.
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
It is inevitable that there will be leftovers. If so, make sure to store all leftovers in airtight, shallow containers that are two inches deep or less. Refrigerate or freeze the leftovers within two hours of cooking. Make sure your refrigerator is below 40 degrees and your freezer below zero degrees Fahrenheit. For refrigerated leftovers, make sure to eat within three to four days. For frozen leftovers, use within two to six months. Regardless of how many days have passed, when in doubt, throw it out! To reheat leftovers, bring to 165 degrees Fahrenheit and bring gravy to a steady boil on the stove before serving.
Practicing Proper Sanitation and Hygiene
Make sure everyone handling food washes their hands before, during, and after food preparation. Keep kitchen surfaces clean with hot, soapy water throughout meal preparation. When preparing foods, make sure to use two cutting boards: one for raw meat and the other for ready-to-eat foods like fruits and vegetables. Make sure to wash fruit peels that can contain bacteria. Remove and discard outer leaves of lettuce.
Following these simple steps can keep you healthy and happy this holiday season! For more information on home food safety, visit http://homefoodsafety.org/ for more information.