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Turkey Tips: Safe Holiday Cooking
Turkey Tips: Safe Holiday Cooking
The holiday season is just around the corner. The Sussex County Division of Health, Office of Public Health Nursing offers the following information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure that you and your loved ones can enjoy those tasty holiday dishes to the fullest without any health risk. Read on to learn about foodborne illnesses and what you can do to prevent them.
Food poisoning can be caused by different viruses, bacteria, or parasites that may be present in food items. When they are not stored, prepared, or cooked properly, those germs may cause illness in people who consume those food items.
Symptoms of food poisoning most commonly include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Severity and length of symptoms may depend on the particular germ that caused the illness. Many people who develop food poisoning recover on their own without treatment, but in severe cases, treatment with medication or supportive therapy may be indicated.
Anyone can get food poisoning, but certain populations may be more at risk. These populations include pregnant women, young children, older adults, and individuals with weakened immune systems.
General Food Safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill
- CLEAN: Germs may be found in many different places in your kitchen. Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before, during, and after preparing food. Wash your utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with hot soapy water. Rinse fresh produce under running water.
- SEPARATE: Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can spread disease-causing germs to ready-to-eat foods. Use separate cutting boards for these high-risk foods, and keep them separate from other foods in the fridge.
- COOK: Foods are safe to consume when the internal temperature is high enough to kill disease-causing germs. A food thermometer must be used to establish that food is safely cooked; you can't tell if a food item is sufficiently cooked just by looking at it. Check out this detailed list of foods and their appropriate internal temperatures from the CDC. Print it out and keep it in your kitchen for easy reference.
- CHILL: Germs can easily multiply if foods are left out at room temperature or chilled improperly. Keep your refrigerator below 40° F. Refrigerate perishable food within two hours (or, if the outdoor temperature is above 90° F, within one hour). Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Never thaw foods on the counter!
Is turkey on your Thanksgiving Day menu?
If so, follow these four safety tips to ensure a safe and healthy holiday meal:
- Safely thaw your turkey. Never leave your turkey on the counter to thaw! If left at room temperature for more than two hours, its temperature can become unsafe, and bacteria can grow rapidly. Thaw it in the refrigerator in a container, or in a leak-proof plastic bag in a sink of cold water. Be sure to change the water every 30 minutes.
- Safely handle your turkey. Raw poultry can spread bacteria to anything it comes in contact with; utensils, countertops, ready-to-eat foods, etc. Remember to keep your raw turkey separate from these surfaces, and clean often.
- Safely prepare stuffing. The safest way to prepare stuffing is in a casserole dish. If you choose to put stuffing inside the turkey, do so immediately before cooking, and use a food thermometer to ensure that the stuffing reaches a safe internal temperature of 165° F. Wait for 20 minutes after taking the turkey out of the oven before removing the stuffing; this allows the stuffing to cook even more.
- Safely cook your turkey. When cooking a turkey, set your oven to at least 325° F. The turkey should be completely thawed and placed breast-side up in a 2-2 ½ inch deep roasting pan. The turkey can be removed when a food thermometer inserted into the center of the stuffing and the thickest parts of the breast, thigh, and wing joints reads a safe internal temperature of 165° F. Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before removing stuffing and carving the meat.
Foodborne illness can be prevented. Ensure that you and your loved ones enjoy a safe and healthy Thanksgiving Day and holiday season by adhering to safe food preparation and handling practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Happy cooking!