With Thanksgiving around the corner, many of us are already looking forward to feasting with our friends and family. Between the turkey, casseroles, and pies, we all plan to gobble, gobble ‘til we wobble. But we need to be cautious when preparing and handling food to prevent foodborne illnesses and accidental injuries. Here’s some food handling safety tips for this Thanksgiving.
1. Create a Safe Kitchen
Germs that can cause foodborne illnesses can survive in many places in your kitchen. Before you begin cooking, clean and disinfect all surfaces that food may come into contact with, including countertops, cutting boards, and cooking utensils.
Burns and cuts are among the most common injuries during Thanksgiving. Make sure your home is stocked with a family first aid kit that is easily accessible when needed.
2. Thaw and Cook Your Turkey Safely
It’s important to properly handle and cook poultry in order to prevent harmful bacteria from spreading.
Don’t leave your turkey on the counter to defrost. When left at room temperature, the turkey will reach the “danger zone” (40°F -140°F) where bacteria can grow rapidly after just two hours. Instead, thaw your turkey safely by either putting it in:
- A container in the refrigerator.
- A leak-proof plastic bag in the sink with cold water (change the water every 30 minutes).
- The microwave according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Cook the turkey at 325°F or higher until it reaches a safe internal temperature of 165°F.
3. Avoid Cross-Contamination
With so many dishes to cook, cross-contamination can slip your mind. Make sure to clean and disinfect your hands, utensils and other surfaces after handling the turkey or other poultry dishes before moving onto the next.
Consider cooking your stuffing separately with a casserole dish instead of inside the turkey. This will ensure the stuffing is thoroughly cooked and prevent it from soaking up harmful bacteria from the turkey.
4. Safely Transport Food
If you’re traveling for Thanksgiving, make sure all of your dishes are secure and aren’t at risk of injuring your passengers (your partner’s lap isn’t the best spot for a hot casserole). Invest in travel-friendly cookware or strategically use storage containers to safely secure food in the trunk or on the floorboards. Pack food items in a cooler with ice if you plan on being on the road for more than an hour.
5. Store Leftovers Correctly
Thanksgiving leftovers are the gift that keeps on giving. To ensure your leftovers are safe and ready to eat, be sure to:
- Store them within two hours of cooking.
- Divide them into small portions in shallow containers. This helps them to cool down to a safe temperature quicker, which prevents bacteria from multiplying.
- Eat refrigerated Thanksgiving leftovers within 3-4 days or transfer them to the freezer.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service has developed a convenient FoodKeeper app that breaks down food storage guidelines.
For more safety tips, check out our blog!