The holidays tend to revolve around food: potlucks, family dinners, cookie decorating and seasonal celebrations offer dozens of opportunities to cook, bake and dine to your heart's content. Whether you're whipping up something in the kitchen or delivering homemade goodies, here are a few tips on food safety for the season.
The Partnership for Food Safety Education suggests following "The Core Four Practices" to help prevent foodborne illness in the kitchen. These practices, or steps rather, go as follows.
Clean: Make sure your hands, utensils, equipment and workspaces are always clean. Wash everything in hot soapy water and wipe down surfaces on a regular basis. Finally, thoroughly rinse all fruits and vegetables, even scrubbing them if necessary.
Separate: Keep meats and produce separate, and use different cutting boards for each. Raw and cooked foods should also be kept separate to prevent cross-contamination. This not only applies to the kitchen, but also in the grocery store and in your refrigerator too.
Cook: Cook all foods to the appropriate temperatures and use a food thermometer to get it right. Remember, many meats may brown and look done before they are fully cooked. When using a microwave, stir and rotate dishes to ensure they are evenly cooked.
Chill: Keep your refrigerator at a consistent 40 degrees or lower, and don't overload the shelves to ensure that air can circulate. Get in the habit of marinating and defrosting foods in the fridge, not on your counter. Chill perishables as soon as you get home from the store, and when cooking or serving food, chill leftovers or ingredients as soon as possible.
Tips for the Season:
During the holidays, it's likely you'll be sharing meals and transporting food more often. Here are a few ways to bring food safely to and from your holiday celebrations:
Transporting: Keep cold food cold and hot food hot when traveling, and make sure all foods are covered and tightly packaged. If you have to travel more than a couple hours, consider shopping and cooking at your destination instead.
Serving: Use chafing dishes or plug in your crockpot if you plan to serve a buffet-style meal. Similarly, use ice packs or cold dishes to keep cold food properly chilled. Make sure all dishes have their own serving utensil, and clean or replace them if they become contaminated.
Leftovers: Refrigerate any leftovers promptly when the meal is over, and don't leave anything out for more than two hours. Take the time to store foods properly in glass or plastic containers with lids. And if anything sits out for too long, toss it!
Reheating: The only thing better than Thanksgiving dinner is leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner. Always reheat foods thoroughly to at least 165 degrees, and allow dishes to sit for a few minutes afterwards so that the heat can kill any bacteria.
Holiday Foods: Some traditional holiday foods are more likely to cause foodborne illness than others. Make sure to thoroughly defrost your turkey before cooking, and be wary of recipes or fancy baked goods that call for raw eggs, such as eggnog.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and stay safe!