As Thanksgiving approaches we all look forward to a joyful holiday feast with friends and family. However, good food hygiene and preparation is vital to avoid turning your happy celebration into a far less joyful nightmare. Food borne illnesses can cause serious health problems with symptoms of nausea, diarrhea and vomiting spoiling family plans and Black Friday shopping trips.
Food safety expert Kathleen Splane from the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension shares her top tips.
• Make sure you thaw your turkey thoroughly. The best way to do this is to thaw it in the refrigerator. A 15-pound bird can take 3-4 days so allow plenty of time.
• Never thaw a turkey on the kitchen counter or in the microwave. If you don’t have time to thaw the bird in the fridge, don’t panic – there is another method to use in an emergency – however this takes time and some work. Submerge the bird in cold water in a clean sink or pan and set a timer to change the cold water every 30 minutes. It will take around 30 minutes to thaw per pound of turkey using this method. A large bird could take up to 10 hours.
• Cross contamination is a big risk in the kitchen – raw and ready to eat food should be prepared on different cutting boards and separate areas of the counter and always make sure you wash you hands thoroughly.
• Wash fruit and vegetables with water and a brush – harmful bacteria can be found on the skins
• Buy a meat thermometer – never rely of the color of the juice to ensure your turkey is cooked. The thickest part of the bird should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
• If you stuff the turkey ensure that the stuffing reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If the stuffing has not reached that temperature but the rest of your bird is cooked – remove the stuffing and cook it separately until it reached 165 F.
• Planning a buffet? Don’t leave food out for too long and ensure you keep cold food cold and hot food hot. Put cold foods on ice and consider using a hot plate for hot foods.
• Never leave leftovers out for longer than 2 hours. Once you have finished – refrigerate it, freeze it or discard it.
• Lose the restroom hand towel and use disposables.
• Ice in cocktails can be problematic. Make sure that the bar person is not using their hands to scoop ice or has touched the rim of your glass.
• Lastly – throw a packet of dish cloths in your cart when you go to the grocery store. Cleaning cloths support the growth of harmful bacteria and can be a petri dish for harmful bacteria. Wash them daily or throw your scubbies in the dishwasher.