As the holiday season approaches, we begin to think about spending time with our families, enjoying one another’s company over the many feasts that accompany special days. While we may set aside mindful eating during the holiday season, we should not set aside food safety.
In many families, once the holiday meal is served it may sit on the table for 2-3 hours while people come and go, “picking” from the various serving dishes. The most creative food safety flub goes to a family member who thaws her holiday turkey in her garage. Her justification of this practice? “I haven’t hurt anyone yet!”
With respect for time-honored traditions, might we suggest that this festive time of giving and sharing SHOULD NOT include sharing foodborne illness by forgetting food safety measures? In many California counties, we may still have some heat lingering late into the November month. How much harm can the garage thawing method, or “GTM” if you will, really have? After all, we will be cooking it appropriately right? Wrong!
A few turkey thawing tips:
- If thawing your turkey in the refrigerator; plan for 24 hours per 4-5 pounds of turkey.
- Place the turkey into a container to avoid contaminating other foods.
- If thawing your turkey in cold water; plan for 30 minutes per 1 pound of turkey. Remember to change the water every 30 minutes.
- If thawing your turkey in the microwave;
- A turkey thawed in cold water or in the microwave must be cooked immediately.
Cooking your turkey properly ensures that all harmful bacteria have been destroyed.
Cooking time ranges from 2¾ hours to 5¼ hours depending on size and whether the turkey is stuffed. To check the temperature of a properly cooked turkey, one should insert the thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and wing as well as the thickest part of the breast; proper temperature should read 165 degrees. Once all parts have reached this minimum temperature, it is safe to eat, even if parts should remain pink. Stuffing should read 165 degrees when properly cooked as well.
Here are a few tips to keep your foods safe when storing leftovers:
- Cut turkey or other meats into smaller pieces. Store stuffing separately.
- Divide large quantities of food items into smaller portions before storing.
- Store different food items separately.
- Turkey that is stored in the refrigerator can be held for 3-4 days; reheat to 165 degrees.
- Frozen turkey can be stored for 2-6 months; reheat to 165 degrees.
Enjoy your holiday feast and be sure to keep your foods safe!
These tips and more can be found at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/.
Blog contributors: Connie Schneider, Ph.D., R.D., Laurin Herrera, CSUF Dietetic Intern, & Shelby MacNab, Nutrition Program Manager