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Thanksgiving Food Safety Tips


Thanksgiving dinner is one of the largest meals prepared every year. We all know the pressure that comes with getting it “just right.”  Whether you’re a seasoned pro or tackling your first Thanksgiving meal, has some great tips for making sure your meal is not only delish but safe to serve as well!

·      Check label for freshness: Temperature labels show if the bird is fresh or frozen. If you plan to serve a fresh turkey, purchase it no more than two days before Thanksgiving.

·      Purchase two thermometers:  One is a refrigerator thermometer to ensure the turkey is stored at 40 °F or slightly below and the other is a food thermometer,   to make sure the cooked turkey reaches a safe 165 °F.  Checking the food thermometer to see if the turkey is completely cooked is critical for making sure you don’t have a turkey that looks done, but is raw in the center. It’s happened to just about everyone at one time or another! Check the turkey’s temperature by inserting the thermometer in three places: the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh, and the innermost part of the wing. Another type of food thermometer is one that is oven safe and can be inserted into the turkey before you place it in the oven. Place the probe from the top of the turkey (near the neck cavity) horizontally to the deepest part of the breast; making sure it's not touching the bone.

·      Thawing a frozen turkey: Before a frozen turkey can be cooked, it needs to thaw. To thaw by refrigerator: Plan ahead - allow approximately 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at 40 °F or below. Place the turkey in a container to prevent the juices from dripping on other foods or shelf. Cold water thawing: Allow about 30 minutes per pound. First be sure the turkey is in a leak-proof plastic bag to prevent cross-contamination and to prevent the turkey from absorbing water, resulting in a watery product. Submerge the wrapped turkey in cold tap water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed. This can take anywhere from 2 to 12 hours depending on how many pounds the turkey weighs. Microwave thawing: This one is tricky but convenient. Since microwaves heat at different temperatures, follow the microwave oven manufacturer's instruction when defrosting a turkey. Plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving. If you’re not sure about the amount of time – call the manufacturer or check online to see if there are instructions for your model.

·      Steps to take when cooking a turkey: Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before touching any food to prevent the spread of many types of infection and illness. Do not wash the turkey. This only spreads pathogens onto kitchen surfaces. The only way to kill bacteria that causes foodborne illness is to fully cook the turkey. Keep raw turkey separated from all other foods at all times. Use separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils when handling raw turkey to avoid cross-contamination. Wash items that have touched raw meat with warm soap and water, or place them in a dishwasher.

Congratulations! You’ve prepared a wonderful Thanksgiving turkey and there is plenty left for other meals and sandwiches. What do you do next? The first thing is to refrigerate any left overs within 2 hours after the meal is finished. Store leftovers in shallow pans or containers to decrease cooling time. This prevents the food from spending too much time at unsafe temperatures (between 40 °F to 140 °F). You can also freeze any leftovers. Do not store stuffing inside a leftover turkey. Remove the stuffing from the turkey, and refrigerate the stuffing and the meat separately. Avoid consuming leftovers that have been left in the refrigerator for longer than 3 or 4 days (next Tuesday to be exact). Use the freezer to store leftovers for longer periods of time. And if guests want to take some of the remaining turkey and dressing with them (and who doesn’t?), keep leftovers in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs if the food is traveling home with a guest who lives more than two hours away.

The staff wishes you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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