The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 80 percent of foodborne illnesses are linked to meat and poultry, so proper handling and cooking is essential.
Here are 10 tips to help ensure safe handling and preparation of foods this holiday season:
1. Don't let uncooked turkey sit at room temperature. Shop for a turkey last and get it home and refrigerated promptly. Bag the turkey separately and place it below other food in the refrigerator.
2. Don't attempt to thaw a frozen turkey quickly by leaving it sit overnight on a kitchen counter. Use one of the following methods:
a. Option I – Refrigerator Method. Keep the turkey in its original wrapper and place in a shallow pan on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator. It may take several days for a large turkey to thaw (plan for a thawing time of 4 – 5 hours per pound of turkey). A turkey that has been thawed in this way can remain in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days before cooking.
b. Option II - Cold Water Thawing. Allow about 30 minutes per pound. Place the turkey in a leak-proof plastic bag and submerge the wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.
c. Option III – Microwave Thawing. Since microwave oven performance varies, check your owner's manual for the size turkey that will fit in your microwave oven, the minutes per pound and power level to use for thawing. Remove all outside wrapping and place the turkey on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that may leak. Because some areas of the turkey may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving, a turkey thawed in the microwave must be cooked immediately.
3. Don’t wash your turkey. There's no need to wash your turkey before your cook it. If you do, bacteria from raw poultry can splash onto worktops, dishes and other foods. Proper cooking will kill bacteria. If you choose to rinse your turkey, such as after brining, be very careful about splashing water and disinfect your sink and all other nearby surfaces thoroughly afterwards.
4. Never place an uncooked turkey directly on the counter; keep it on a platter or in a roaster. Clean and sanitize the counter as well as any dishes or utensils that came into contact with raw turkey or its juices.
5. Don’t forget to wash your hands thoroughly immediately after handling raw turkey, using plenty of warm water and soap. Given that the holidays occur during cold and flu season, make sure that any guests who come into the kitchen to help wash their hands as well to avoid the spread of germs and illness. The scrubclub.org provides some handwashing tips.
6. Use a thermometer to check for doneness, even if the turkey has a pop-up timer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing as well as the thickest part of the breast. When the temperature reaches 165° F at all three locations, the turkey should be done.
7. For optimum safety, don’t stuff your turkey. Since it’s difficult to cook stuffing evenly when it’s packed inside a turkey, consider cooking stuffing in a separate casserole dish. If you do choose to stuff, wait to do so until right before putting the turkey in the oven. Use only pre-cooked meats and vegetables in the stuffing mixture, pack the stuffing loosely, and cook the stuffing until it reaches at least 165° F at the center.
8. Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers immediately. Large portions should be separated into smaller containers and covered loosely to speed cooling.
9. Properly reheat before you eat: Any pre-cooked dishes as well as leftovers need to be reheated to 165 degrees in order to kill any looming bacteria. Microwave ovens tend to heat food unevenly; keeping food loosely covered allows heat to better circulate throughout food. Use a food thermometer and check the temperature in multiple locations to make sure no cold spots are left. Refrigerated turkey, stuffing, and gravy should be eaten within 3 to 4 days.
10. Sanitize your dishcloths or sponges on a regular basis, or use disposable cloths: A contaminated dishcloth can house millions of bacteria after a few hours of use. In fact, an NSF International Germ Study found that the kitchen dish rag /sponge is the germiest place in the home. Since Thanksgiving is a busy day in the kitchen, and it may be hard to keep track of dishcloth use, consider using paper towels to clean up and then throw them away immediately.
One lucky reader will receive the following:
(NSF Certified) Tupperware
*I received the same package free of charge for purpose of this giveaway. *