Tips on Safely Preparing Your Holiday Meals

A Guide on How to Properly Cook, Handle, and Store Your Holiday Meals

Published on Monday, November 19, 2018

Holiday health warnings tend to focus on travel concerns or the effects of overeating. A commonly overlooked safety concern amongst the holiday season's hustle and bustle are the dangers of improper food preparation and storage. 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that food-borne diseases cause roughly 48 million people to become ill each year, hospitalizing 128,000 and killing 3,000. Improperly prepared Thanksgiving turkey can result in the growth of salmonella and listeria. To prevent a Thanksgiving meal illness, follow these steps provided by the CDC:

1. Thawing. To safely thaw your turkey, be sure to thaw it in the refrigerator or in a leak-proof plastic bag in a sink of cold water that is changed every 30 minutes. Allow 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds if thawing in a refrigerator or 30 minutes per pound if thawing in cold water. Never thaw your turkey by leaving it out on the counter. A turkey that is left out in room temperature for two hours can lead to the rapid growth of bacteria.  

2. Handling. Raw meat and poultry can contaminate anything they come in contact with. To prevent contamination be sure to wash your hands and surfaces often, use separate cutting boards and plates, place in separate grocery bags when purchasing, and keep separate from other foods while in the refrigerator.

3. Cooking. When cooking, the oven temperature should be set at a minimum of 325°F. The completely thawed turkey should be cooked in a roasting pan that is 2 to 2.5 inches deep. Cooking times will vary depending on the weight of the turkey. To be sure it has reached a safe internal temperature of 165°F, insert a food thermometer into the center of the stuffing and thickest portions of the breast, thigh, and wing joint. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before serving. 

4. Refrigerating. A refrigerator should be kept below 40°F and perishable foods should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking. 

In addition to the above recommendations, it's also important that if you're deep frying a turkey you avoid becoming the next viral sensation and make sure the turkey is completely thawed. Your guests won't be happy if you turn their dinner into a turkey missile! Also, if using a deep fryer, be sure it's outside on a solid, level surface, that it's a safe distance away from flammable materials, never leave it unattended, and keep a fire extinguisher marked for liquid fires (Type B) nearby. 

There is a Holiday Food Safety Twitter chat on December 12, 2019, from 2-3 PM using the hashtag #CDCFoodChat. 

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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