I often hear,” I have never made anyone sick before, all the food safety things you talk about are just over-kill”.
Really? You know this for sure? You have never made anyone ill? Fact is, you may have never hospitalized anyone, but have any of your family or friends ever had diarrhea or cramping hours to days after eating dinner or next day brunch at your house?
I know there are volumes of information out there right now on Thanksgiving Food Safety. Reality says you are not going to follow every food safety recommendation. So, I have condensed them down to the most important things you can do to keep your families belly’s feeling good this holiday.
Here it is – cut and dry – believe me or not. If you would like any items explained in greater detail, just ask. I would be happy to explain the reasons behind why this is so important.
Defrosting a large turkey in the refrigerator is the safest way.
Do NOT wash your turkey. For those of you that insist on rinsing the inside please properly clean and sanitize area (see bottom of post for how to do this) in and around sink and PLEASE put all clean dishes away first!
WASH your hands, before and after handling raw food. Do not answer your phone then go back to touching food. Do not dry your hands with a dish towel. USE paper towels. Consider where and what that nasty dish towel has touched before using it for a second purpose.
CLEANING is good – Cleaning and Sanitizing is better. It doesn’t take that long. Place a wiping cloth in a bowl with proper sanitizer and it makes the job easy.
I know you are going to stuff. I stuff my birds. Here is how to do it safely. Do not stuff the night before. It is just too cold and will take too long to cook, drying out your turkey. That is just a good cooking tip. Prepare stuffing, stuff then cook immediately.
Purchase a stem thermometer for about $4-6 and make sure it is accurate. (see bottom of post) Next, ignore the little pop up button, they tend to overcook your bird and often under-cook the stuffing in a bird. Your bird is done when you check several internal areas and make sure they are 165° . Check between breast and thigh, in center of stuffing and in the breast area.
DO NOT leave your turkey sitting on the table for everyone to walk by with their grubby little hands to “pick on” . Slice some extra and leave smaller portion on table if you must. Then throw out what has been left out after 4 hours.
Put away within 2 hours or throw out after 4. However, NEVER put away while over 70°, that is too warm and your refrigerator will be working too hard to keep everything else cool.
Remember these temperatures and keep bacterial growth to a minimum:
41 degrees or below for cold food.
70 – 120 degrees is when bacteria grow the fastest. I like to think of it as they are having a dance party on your food!! AVOID leaving food in this air temperature during prepping or after cooking.
135 degrees if you are planning on holding your food in chaffing dishes or crock pot make sure it is at 135 or above. Don’t forget that at 4 hours it needs to be thrown out or reheated to 165 degrees.
The next day:
If you expect to eat the left overs the next day put them away as soon as possible (within 2 hours). Especially if you will be eating cold and not reheating to 165 ° or over.
Plan meals that will require reheating, that way if you did make some mistakes yesterday you can maybe correct them today by cooking again to 165 °
Cleaning and Sanitizing:
Areas within 5 feet of where you had raw meat or poultry juices need special attention. It takes 5 steps: Wipe off excess debris, Wash with a detergent, Rinse with clean water, Sanitize with a solution of 1 1/2 teaspoons of bleach in one gallon of water and allow this solution to air dry on surface before proceeding.
Use different clean wiping towel for each step above. Single use paper towels are best.
Making sure you have a working thermometer.
Place in a glass of ice that is just covered with water. It should read 32°, if it does not, there is usually a nut on the back that you can turn to make it read correctly. Most came with a sleeve that had a tool on it.
Have good personal hygiene, avoid cross contamination, check temperatures and reduce bacteria on surfaces by cleaning and sanitizing.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving, be food safe and your family will thank you!!