One of the best ways to prevent the spread of food-borne illness is by washing your hands frequently, especially when preparing a meal. Thoroughly wash your hands between the preparations of uncooked poultry and ready-to-serve foods. Preparing a Thanksgiving meal is not an easy task for even the most seasoned of chefs, so you should follow these tips to ensure a safe and healthy holiday meal!
Thaw - Allow at least 2 to 3 days to thaw a frozen turkey in the refrigerator. To avoid cross-contamination, do not place thawing Turkey or any raw meat, (even if commercially wrapped), above food in your refrigerator that will not be cooked before serving. Never defrost a turkey by leaving it out at room temperature.
Separate and Prepare - Bacteria on raw poultry can contaminate your hands, utensils, and work surfaces. Use different cutting boards for raw meat, poultry, seafood, and veggies. One of the best ways to guarantee a safe Thanksgiving dinner is to keep the raw turkey away from salads and side dishes that won't be cooked. Wash hands, surfaces, and utensils often to avoid spreading bacteria when preparing food.
Stuff - To avoid undercooked stuffing that can cause food borne illness, bake stuffing separately in a shallow pan, where it can quickly reach 165°F.
Cook -Turkeys should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F. It’s essential to have a 0 to 220 degree probe thermometer at home so that you can accurately measure the temperature of your food. Insert the probe thermometer deep into the meat. If you prepare foods in advance such as soups and stocks, make sure to cool them in the refrigerator, uncovered in shallow pans.
Properly Cool Leftovers -Improper cooling practices frequently cause food borne illness. Leftover turkey, stuffing, etc., must be refrigerated within two hours. Be sure not to pack your refrigerator with leftovers so tightly that the cool air can’t do its job. The rule of thumb is to avoid filling containers with food deeper than four inches and then stacking multiple containers upon each other. Once the food is cooled to under 45°F it‘s safe to stack away!
Reheat - Leftovers must be reheated to at least 165°F before serving.