Food is a big part of how we celebrate the holidays. But you don't want spoiled food to spoil the fun. So remember to add a dash of safety with the foods you whip up.
Doing so can help reduce the risk of foodborne illness, or food poisoning. That's a possibility in any kitchen. The culprit? Harmful bacteria that can find their way into foods. To help reduce this risk:
Keep it clean. This is an important step to help keep bacteria from spreading.
• Remember to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Wash up before and after handling food and when you switch from one task to another, such as after handling raw poultry and then moving on to cutting up raw vegetables.
• Clean kitchen surfaces with hot, soapy water. And think about buying two cutting boards for your kitchen: one for raw meats and another for raw foods, like vegetables.
• Don't rinse raw meat. There's no need to rinse your turkey before cooking it. Doing so may spread bacteria to your sink.
Thaw your bird safely. Never defrost a turkey or other frozen meats at room temperature. Meats can be safely thawed in the fridge, in the microwave or in cold water that you change every 30 minutes. When thawing in the fridge, cover the meat and place it on a bottom shelf so that its juices won't drip on other foods.
Use a food thermometer. That's the only surefire way to verify that food is cooked long enough to kill harmful bacteria: 145 degrees for red meats like beef or lamb; 160 degrees for ground meats; 165 degrees for poultry.
Handle leftovers with care. Harmful bacteria grow quickly at room temperature. So be sure to refrigerate leftovers within two hours after serving. If you store your leftovers in a shallow tray, they will cool down to a safer temperature faster. Reheat any leftovers to165 degrees before serving again. And plan to use all leftovers within three to four days.
Sources: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; U.S. Food and Drug Administration