Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tips for a Safe and Healthy Thanksgiving

Ah, October - the epitome of fall. The leaves are changing colours, there's a distinct chill in the air, and we all start to bundle up in sweaters, scarves and boots. What better time than this to indulge in the rich, warm, aromatic flavours that we find on our dinner tables at Thanksgiving.

As lovely as all that food is, it's critical that it's prepared safely, or else your enjoyment may quickly turn into suffering if you end up with food poisioning. Turkey can easily become contaminated with bacteria such as salmonella, which can cause diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps. So here are some tips to help you prepare that big bird safely and avoid any cross-contamination with the rest of your meal.

1. Always thaw your turkey in the fridge. Not on the counter, not in the sink (Unless it's completely submerged in cold water at all times - but even this is tricky). Micro-organisms thrive at temperatures between 4 and 60 degrees celcius, known as the 'Temperature Danger Zone'. So if your turkey is kept in the fridge to thaw, it will never come into this zone, which will prevent the growth of bacteria and other nasties.

2. Clean, sanitize and disinfect all surfaces that have come in contact with the turkey or it's juices. If you rinse your turkey, be sure to sanitize all counters and the sink itself. Also, don't forget to sanitize all utensils used on the raw turkey. Raw turkey juices can splash all over the place during the rinsing or transportation process from the sink to the pan, so be sure to get that bleach or lysol out!

3. Always check the internal temperature of your turkey once you think it's done. Check the thickest part of the breast or thigh - it should read at least 85 C (185 F). Digital thermometers are the best.

4. Don't cook your stuffing inside the bird. We know, it's called 'stuffing' for a reason, but it's also a food safety hazard. Filling the bird with stuffing changes the way that heat is distributed in the oven and the in turkey itself, so it slows cooking time. In addition, it will take longer for the internal temperature of the turkey and stuffing to rise to a safe level, while the outside of the bird may look done or even over cooked. Plus, realize that you're putting the stuffing into a totally raw bird, which means the stuffing needs to be cooked to the same temperature as the bird itself to avoid food poisoning.

5. Be sure to refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of cooking. Once again, as the food re-enters the temperature danger zone, there is an increased food safety hazard. Remember - bacteria love protein, so be sure to get it outside of that danger zone ASAP so they don't have a chance to eat your leftovers before you do!

Follow these simple steps and you can rest assured that your Thanksgiving meal will not only be delicious, but also safe! Now that's something to give thanks for!


Kim - DIY Reviews said...

Really appreciate all the tips. Its so important to know all about safety when it comes to cooking and thawing a turkey as well!