Here come the holidays! November is here which means Thanksgiving is on the horizon. As you begin to think about your Thanksgiving plans and feasts, it is also important to remember proper food handling techniques when it comes to shopping, preparing, cooking, and storing your food.
From the store to the table to your refrigerator, there are plenty opportunities for contamination or spoiling. Heed these food safety tips as you prepare for the holidays.
- When shopping, separate your groceries. Raw poultry, meats, and seafood should be kept away from other foods as much as possible. The easiest way to prevent cross contamination is to place these items in separate bag (your own reusable bags or those provided by the store). Also, perishable items such as meat and poultry should be put in your cart last to prevent them from sitting at room temperature while you gather other items.
- Buy the right bird. If you’re shopping in advance, opt for a frozen bird to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. If you prefer serving a fresh turkey, buy your bird within two days of your Thanksgiving dinner.
- Shop and drop. It may be tempting to run errands after grocery shopping, but to keep your food and your loved ones safe, it’s best to go straight home to properly unload and store your foods.
Depending on how long you leave your food in the car and the temperature, dangerous microorganisms can contaminate for food.
- Defrost safely. When it comes to defrosting a turkey safely, there are three options: in the refrigerator, cold water, or the microwave.
- Refrigerator thawing is the best method since it will defrost at a consistent and safe temperature and all you have to do is keep it in the fridge. It does, however, take the longest time. The typical rule of thumb is 24 hours for every 5 pounds, thus, a 15 lb. turkey will take 3 days to thaw.
- To thaw in cold water, keep your turkey in its original wrapping and submerge it in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. The general rule is 30 minutes per pound, therefore, a 15lb. turkey will take 7.5 hours and 15 water changes to thaw. While this method takes less time, it requires more attention since you must regularly change the water.
- Worst case scenario – you forgot to defrost the turkey! You may use your microwave to defrost your turkey. Please refer to your owner’s manual for instructions on microwave defrosting.
If there’s anything you take away from this, let it be to defrost in advance. A thawed turkey can be kept in the fridge (40°F or below) for up to 4 days.
If you’ve got more than one cook in the kitchen, be sure to review these with everyone who is helping out.
- Wash your hands, not the bird. Instead of helping to get rid of bacteria, the splashing water helps to spread it to other areas (ex. sinks, food prepping surfaces) up to three feet away. The better way to prevent cross contamination is by washing your hands before and after handling raw poultry, meat, or seafood.
- One of the Thanksgiving foods most susceptible to foodborne illness is stuffing. If your stuffing does not reach an internal temperature of 165°F, harmful bacteria can survive within it. Be sure that immediately after prep, you place the stuffed bird into an oven set for 325°F or higher and use a food thermometer to ensure that not only the bird, but the stuffing as well, reaches the safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F.
- Dressing is what they call it when you prepare stuffing outside of a turkey and is generally safer than stuffing. However, cooks must still be aware of food safety. If you are using raw meat, poultry, or shellfish, precook these raw ingredients separately and then incorporate it into your dish.
- Cook to the right temperature. The only way to determine if meat, poultry or seafood is cooked safely is to check the internal temperature with a food thermometer. Whole turkeys should register 165°F in three locations – the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing, and the thickest part of the breast.
We all love Thanksgiving leftovers, but if not properly stored after dinner, they can potentially make us sick. Although you may be in a food coma, fight the urge to nap until you have packed your leftover food properly.
- Refrigerate uneaten food within two hours of cooking to prevent bacteria growth. Try to use shallow containers to decrease cooling time and prevent food from spending too much time at unsafe temperatures (40°F to 140°F). In regards to the turkey, cut the meat off the bone before storing, and pack the stuffing separately from the meat.
- BYOC (Bring Your Own Cooler). Because Thanksgiving feasts are often plentiful, refrigerator space is hard to come by. Come prepared with your own cooler from home and maintain a packed cooler at a safe temperature (40°F or below).
- Leftovers last safely for four days in the refrigerator. If you need at least a week before eating Thanksgiving food again, pack your leftovers into airtight containers and freeze them.
- If you are sending guests home with leftovers and you know they will be travelling for more than two hours, give them ice or frozen gel packs to ensure the food in their coolers stays at or below 40°F.
With only three weeks until Thanksgiving, you might want to start thinking about your menu and guest list. If you need some pinspiration, feel free to check out our Thanksgiving Pinterest Board. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
In the meantime, let us do the dirty work for you. Come in for a yummy breakfast or lunch six days a week – visit BrickMarketDeli.com for more information.