Take food-borne illness off the menu at Thanksgiving. As you prep your feast, follow a few simple rules to keep your kitchen and your family safe from bacteria.
Melissa Dobbins, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and registered dietician: “We all used to rinse the turkey and even chickens, we just think that’s what you’re supposed to do.”
It’s not. Rinsing raw meat simply spreads bacteria all over the sink. Instead, make sure your bird is completely thawed.
Melissa Dobbins: “To thaw it in the refrigerator, which is the most recommended method, it takes about 24 hours for every 4 pounds.”
Any time you handle raw meat, hand washing is critical.
Melissa Dobbins: “If people wash their hands in warm soapy water, we could eliminate up to half of all cases of food-borne illness. You need warm, soapy water, and you need to do it for 20 seconds. That’s singing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice. Get under the nails and In between the fingers.”
Melissa Dobbins: “You want to get rid of all those wet, stinky towels and wash them on the hot cycle of your laundry.”
Temperature is key when it comes to storing leftovers, too.
Melissa Dobbins: “You do not want to let the food sit on the counter and cool off. That’s giving it more time for bacteria to grow
Pack extra food in shallow, smaller containers so it cools quickly.
Melissa Dobbins: “You want to get it out of that danger zone between 40 degrees and 140 degrees as quickly as possible. If it’s in a deep container, the food in the middle is not going to cool quickly enough.”
Then label and date each container.
Melissa Dobbins: “You want to eat left overs within 3 to 4 days.”
Or freeze and eat them within two to six months. But get leftovers packed and put away within two hours of serving the meal.
Melissa Dobbins: “In that danger zone is when bacteria grow, so you have about a two-hour window where you’re ok, you’re safe.”
And just in case you need a reminder on Thanksgiving Day .
Melissa Dobbins” “There’s a new app that’s free from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and it’s called ‘Is my food safe?'”
For more food prep safety information, check out http://www.homefoodsafety.org/holidays
For turkey tips go to http://www.homefoodsafety.org/vault/2499/web/files/TurkeyTips.pdf
And for a kitchen safety checklist, check out http://www.homefoodsafety.org/vault/2499/web/files/Kitchen%20Safety%20Checklist%20Tip%20Sheet.pdf