Next week kicks off the holiday season, and glorious meals await us! If you will be in the kitchen or on the road with food, it’s important to include plans for keeping your food safe. Here are the key factors to be aware of when it comes to preparing and storing your meal:
- Food Safety- preparing, storing and serving food in a way that prevents foodborne illness.
- Foodborne Illness- occurs when a person eats or drinks a food that has been contaminated with a pathogen or microbe and causes diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps and/or fever that lasts from 1-7 days.
- Food Quality- refers to the taste, texture and nutritional value of food. Food quality can decrease from freezer burn or from becoming stale or rancid.
We have a few tips to help you incorporate food safety into your routine and prevent foodborne illness – without sacrificing food quality. Nothing is better than a holiday meal that keeps your food and your guests safe! As you make your food plan, two main tips can guide you through food preparation and serving:
1. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. When handling raw meat, remember that counter tops, refrigerator door handles, and other surfaces can also become contaminated. Be sure to sanitize them with hot, soapy water after use.
2. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Out in the open, foods fall into “danger zone” temperatures. Dishes should be at room temperature (between 40⁰F and 140⁰F) for no more than 2 hours.
- Hot dishes should be covered in an oven (set above 140⁰F),slow cooker, chafing dish or warming tray. Ideally, the turkey and casserole dishes should have oven-safe thermometers left in them. These thermometers allow you to periodically check the temperature during your busy day. If you have no thermometers, be sure to measure the temperature before serving seconds or leftovers.
- Cold dishes should be kept in the refrigerator below 40⁰F. If you run out of space in the fridge, have coolers ready with enough ice to keep foods out of the “danger zone.”
But what about transporting and storing your food? Whether you want to trek your dish across town, save your leftovers, or cook in advance, a few measures can help you do it safely. See which of these scenarios apply to you and act accordingly:
Want to store your dishes after the meal? Turkey and other side dishes should be separated into smaller portions, placed in shallow containers and refrigerated or frozen within 2 hours. Leftovers kept in the refrigerator should be eaten within 3-4 days.
Cooking your turkey a day early? After roasting the turkey, take it out of the oven and let it stand for 20 minutes. Remove the legs, thighs, and wings, and carve the breast meat, legs and thighs. Put the slices in shallow oven-safe baking dish or pan, cover and refrigerate the meat until the next day. If you plan to make gravy, pour off the drippings and refrigerate them as well.
Thirty minutes before serving, sprinkle the drippings with chicken or turkey broth, cover with foil and heat at 325 °F until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
Traveling with cooked food? Plan ahead to make traveling with your food safely. Consider asking guests traveling the farthest to bring non-perishable food items, like rolls, breads or cookies. Leave the perishable items to guests closer to home.
Hot foods can be transported by wrapping them in foil and heavy towels or using an insulated wrapper or container. Cold foods can travel in a cooler with ice packs to help keep temperatures below 40°F. After you arrive, immediately put foods in the oven above 140°F or refrigerator below 40°F.
Now that you have a food safety, get ready to cook! Our next post will go into more detail about preparing a turkey.