Food Safety First

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November 27th, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is finally here and with it comes all that delicious food. While making good tasting food seems like everyone's number one priority, it should be put further down the list. When it comes to food preparation, safety always comes first.

Thanksgiving and other holidays that involve food always bring an increased risk of foodborne illness. It might not be an issue for your body but when you're cooking for a large group of people, you have no idea who has a compromised immune system, who's on medication and how everyone's body would react to food contamination, especially when the elderly and children are involved. This is why it's best to try and lower the risk as much as possible.

food safety thanksgiving turkeyFirst, when you buy your turkey, you should also get a meat thermometer if you don't already have one. Some turkeys have built in thermometers that pop out when the right internal temperature is reached and you can even use the Turkey Cook Time Calculator.

As convenient as these tools are, they should be used as guidelines. Only a calibrated meat thermometer that gives you a temperature reading should be used to be 100% certain that the turkey is safe to eat. Check the temperature at the thickest part of the breast and innermost part of the thigh without touching the bone. Both temperatures should reach a minimum of 165 degrees F. If you stuffed your turkey, check the temperature in the middle of the stuffing which should also read at least 165 degrees F.

Cross contamination is another breeding ground for bacteria that can easily be avoided by taking a few simple steps. Never use the same utensils when handling meat and anything else. The same should be practiced with cutting surfaces. Never cut meat and vegetables on the same surface with the same utensils. Wash your hands after handling any meat products and before handling any other food.

Leftovers should be stored in a manner that will minimize bacterial growth. Throw out any food that has been sitting at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. Throw out any food that has been at 90 degrees F for longer than 1 hour. Divide all leftovers into small portions and store them in shallow containers. Storing them in large pots and pans will create a hot spot in the middle of the food that can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Now that you know how to make your Thanksgiving turkey safely, enjoy the day.

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