Holiday Top 10 Food Safety Tips (cont.)
To make sure your holiday dinner is not only delicious but as safe as
possible, WebMD asked the experts for their best holiday food safety tips. Here
are their top 10 suggestions:
Have a master plan. Chefs do it, and so should you. Consider your
refrigerator, freezer and oven space, and how you'll manage to keep hot foods
at 140 degrees or higher and cold foods at 40 degrees or below. If you need to
use coolers, make sure you have plenty of clean ice and check it frequently to
be sure the ice hasn't melted. "Whatever you do, don't rely on the natural
outdoor temperature on the porch to keep foods at proper temperature" says
Cook to proper temperature -- and use a thermometer. There is simply
no other way to determine that food has been cooked enough to kill bacteria.
"Turkeys, stuffing, side dishes, and all leftovers should be cooked to at
least 165 degrees and kept above 140 degrees during serving to be sure that any
potential bacteria is destroyed," says Karen Blakeslee, MS, of the Kansas
State University Food Science Institute. "Remember the golden rule: Keep
hot food hot and cold food cold."
Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of preparation. Leaving food
out too long is one of the biggest holiday food safety problems. "It is so
easy to linger around the table, but when food sits outs for more than two
hours in the danger zone -- above 40 degrees and below 140 degrees -- it
is prime for bacterial growth," says Blakeslee. Adds Cody: "Store
leftovers in 2-inch deep, shallow containers and make sure the refrigerator is
not over-packed and there is plenty of air circulating around the food so it
can be properly cooled." Blakeslee suggests cutting the meat off the turkey
to allow it to quickly cool to proper temperature, as well as make it easy to
Properly defrost your turkey, or buy a fresh one. "If you
choose a frozen turkey, allocate 24 hours per pound to defrost in the
refrigerator, and whatever you do, don't defrost the bird on the kitchen
counter," says Blakeslee. In light of drought conditions in certain areas
of the country, defrosting the bird using frequently changed cold water seems
wasteful. But it is safe (albeit time-consuming), as long as you change the
cold water bath every 30 minutes.
Wash your hands thoroughly and often -- before, during, and after food
preparation. "Simply washing hands is one of the easiest ways to
minimize bacterial contamination and keep your food safe," says Blakeslee.
Wash with hot water and soap, up to your wrists and between your fingers, for
approximately 20 seconds.
Wash all fresh produce. Wash even prepackaged greens, to minimize
potential bacterial contamination. Make sure kitchen counters, sponges, cutting
boards, and knives are all well scrubbed.