It’s turkey-time! It’s the time when families all over America share special meals. Be careful, though. Every year one in six Americans gets sick from food poisoning and holiday time, when everyone is traveling and sharing food, is a prime opportunity for unsafe food cooking and storage. Don’t let your special meal turn into a nightmare of vomiting and hospitals.
Harmful bacteria are the most common cause of food poisoning.
Some, such as salmonella and e-coli, can even result in death.
According to the CDC, meat and poultry account for 92% of all outbreaks of food poisoning with an identified single food source and outbreaks occur most frequently in November and December.
Bacteria may be nasty and plentiful this holiday season, but they are also pretty easy to kill in the right conditions.
You can make sure your kitchen is the right conditions.
For example, when you make a turkey, be aware of the four main stages where you need to take safety precautions:
It’s all about temperature.
For thawing, the “danger zone” is between 40°F and 140°F. At these temperatures, the nasty bacteria multiplies rapidly. As soon as a turkey begins to thaw, bacteria that were frozen begin to grow again.
There are 3 safe ways to thaw food:
- in the refrigerator
- in cold water
- in a microwave oven
Each of these ways will keep the meat out of the danger zone. So, DON’T leave anything out on the counter in a warm room to thaw!
While preparing food, be aware that raw poultry can contaminate your hands, utensils, and work surfaces. Clean all of these surfaces thoroughly as you prepare food to keep from spreading any bacteria that may be present.
The safest way to make stuffing is outside the turkey in a separate dish, but if you must stuff, do it right before cooking, then always use a food thermometer. Check to make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe internal temperature of 165°F.
For cooking the turkey, keep the oven above 325°F and, again, use that thermometer to make sure there’s a MINIMUM internal temp of 165°F.
Remember, keep the meat below 40°F while thawing, keep all your surfaces clean, and test the stuffing and meat to keep it above 165°F.
Don’t Forget the Leftovers!
Don’t forget to keep those leftovers safe, too. Keeping those leftovers under 40°F will make that turkey sandwich as enjoyable as that turkey dinner!