Dishing Up Food Safety for Thanksgiving: Keep the Meal Safe and Tasty

Microbiology Today

November 22, 2017

Food poisoning is probably the last thing on anyone’s mind as they tuck into some tasty turkey smothered in gravy and savory stuffing. But on a holiday completely devoted to the table, nothing has the potential to ruin it more than a house full of upset stomachs, or even worse, a trip to the hospital!

By following a few basic food safety tips, without being overly paranoid, everyone should feel great, if not a little sluggish from that third helping! Add in a little family football to burn off those extra calories and you should be golden!

Turkey Talk
The centerpiece of every Thanksgiving meal, a mishandled or undercooked bird can lead to serious foodborne illnesses. From the time it’s picked up at the store until it’s sitting on the table being carved, it’s paramount to follow these food safety tips to ensure that the hosts and guests can enjoy a delicious and safe turkey.

  • A Good Fridge Thaw: The moment a frozen turkey begins to thaw it’s susceptible to bacteria. According to the USDA, the safest method for thawing a turkey is to leave it in the refrigerator for a few days. But remember this requires planning ahead. It takes about 24 hours for every four to five pounds.
  • Cold Water Treatment: Place the turkey in a large pan, submerge it in cold water and change it every 30 minutes.
  • Zap It: The microwaves defrost option can also work. Just make sure to cook the turkey immediately after thawing.
  • Don’t Bathe that Bird: Despite that relative’s insistence, washing the turkey is not recommended. Rinsing it off can spread bacteria to kitchen surfaces. Cooking properly is the only way to kill those potentially dangerous pathogens.
  • Check It: Using a reliable meat thermometer, check to make sure the turkey reaches 165°F by inserting the thermometer in the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the wing and the innermost part of the thigh.
  • Two Hour Rule: To prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying, food should be placed in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking.
  • The Leftovers: If there’s still mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie left in those Tupperware containers after the weekend then something’s completely wrong with you and your family. But seriously, the USDA recommends tossing leftovers, or freezing them, by Monday, November 28th (five days after the food was prepared)

A Dash of Common Sense
Keep those apples, carrots and green beans away from raw meat during prep. Cross contamination can occur from cutting boards and utensils. Using separate cutting boards and utensils and washing everything with soapy hot water, will help keep those buggy guys at bay.

And, of course, wash hands thoroughly! Wishing everyone a delicious and Happy Thanksgiving!

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