- Author: Diane Galvan
- Editor: Noni Todd
By Diane Galvan UCCE Master Food Preserver
It's my turn to orchestrate our Thanksgiving meal. One holiday we all got ‘ill' from something we ate! Any tips for making sure that this doesn't happen on my watch? – Olivia, Los Osos
Follow these guidelines for a safe family feast.
Groceries: Keep fresh produce separate from meats in your shopping cart and grocery bags. If not returning home within an hour, keep perishables in a cooler. Refrigerate items promptly, keeping foods in appropriate containers to prevent drips and leaks.
Kitchen prep: Wash your hands, work surfaces, and utensils with hot soapy water between each food prep step; never intermingle uncooked meats and ready to eat foods on the same surfaces.
Cooking the feast: Learn the danger zone of food temperatures: Foods kept at room temperature more than2 hours, can reach between 40◦F - 140 ͦ F where harmful bacteria grow rapidly (the danger zone). Keep cold foods cold (below 40◦F) till serving time and keep hot foods hot (above 140◦F).
The turkey: Buying a frozen turkey? Safely thaw in the refrigerator, allowing 24 hours for every 4 lbs. of bird. You can thaw it more quickly in a sink of COLD water that you change every 30 minutes. (COLD water prevents reaching the danger zone!) Purchase a fresh turkey 1-2 days before cooking. Fresh or frozen, keep it on a tray to catch leaking juices. Do not rinse your turkey before cooking!
Temperature: Invest in a food thermometer! This is the only reliable indicator that your food is cooked to a safe temperature. A cooked turkey should register a minimum of 165 ͦ F. Stuffing should also bake to 165 ͦF, whether as a separate casserole (recommended safest), or inside the turkey. If inside, stuff loosely – ¾ cup per pound of turkey – immediately before roasting.
Serving: REPLACE empty platters – don't add fresh food to empty platters; several hands may have taken food from the dish, which has been at room temperature. Do not let food stand at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
Finally, store those yummy leftovers in small portions in shallow containers (to cool quickly); eat or freeze within 3 to 4 days – within 2 days for gravy.
More information about safe Thanksgiving preparations: http://www.fightbac.org/winter/thanksgiving/talking-turkey/