Tips to reduce risks in the home kitchen while preparing holiday meals

*    Start with the basics! Always wash hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before handling food.
*    Food safety experts say that turkeys purchased pre-stuffed and frozen with the U.S. Department of Agriculture or state mark of inspection on the packaging are safe as they have been processed under controlled conditions. These turkeys should not be thawed before cooking, and package directions for handling should be followed.
*    If buying a fresh turkey, be sure to purchase it only one to two days before cooking.
*    After thawing a turkey, keep it refrigerated for only one to two days. For every five pounds of turkey, allow about 24 hours of thawing time in a refrigerator set at 40° F. Never defrost food on countertops, use a refrigerator or cold running water.

*    If choosing to stuff a turkey, stuff loosely – about 3⁄4 cup of stuffing per pound of turkey. The stuffing should be moist, not dry, since heat destroys bacteria more rapidly in a moist environment.

*    Always use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey. Be sure to gauge the temperature in several locations, including the wing joint. The temperature of the whole turkey should reach 180° F in the innermost part of the thigh, and the center of the stuffing must reach 165° F.

*    Refrigerate leftovers separately in shallow containers within 2 hours of cooking. Use leftover turkey and stuffing within three to four days, gravy within one to two days, or freeze these foods. Reheat thoroughly to temperatures of 165°.

Originally posted in November of 2007