Whether you’re a pro at hosting the Thanksgiving meal or this will be your very first time, it’s important to follow and practice food safety tips, especially when any type of raw meat is involved.
Oakland County Health Division put together a helpful list of safety tips that includes cleaning, separating, cooking, and chilling your food. We added a special section from the Partnership for Food Safety Education that tackles one of our Thanksgiving favorites: stuffing!
Read through the tips beforehand to get an idea of what to expect as you’ll be preparing your feast. Jot down some notes as you begin to think about what serving pieces and how many cutting boards you’ll need, your counter space arrangement, how many items need to go in the oven, etc.
Wash hands and food preparation surfaces often. Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops and food.
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
- Wash surfaces that come in contact with food. Use hot, soapy water and rinse with clear water.
- To sanitize surfaces use unscented bleach or chlorine products. Follow directions on the label.
- Change dishcloths daily or after contact with raw meat, poultry or fish. Consider using paper towels and throw out after use.
- Clean can-opener blade(s) often to remove food particles that can grow bacteria.
- Rinse fresh fruits and vegetable under running water, even those with skin or rind that won’t be eaten.
Don’t cross contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry and fish away from ready-to-eat foods.
- Separate raw meat, poultry, fish and eggs from other foods in your grocery cart, grocery bags and in the refrigerator.
- Use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry and fish, and another for fresh produce and ready-to-eat foods.
- Store raw meat, poultry and fish on a plate or on a low shelf in the refrigerator so juices do not drip on ready-to-eat foods.
- Never place cooked food on a plate that had raw meat, poultry or fish on it.
- Wash canvas and cloth reusable grocery bags in the washing machine with hot, soapy water.
Foods are safely cooked when they are heated for a long enough time, and to a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness.
- Use a clean food thermometer to check cooking temperatures. Do not rely on how food looks to be sure it is fully cooked.
- Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the food. When checking meat or poultry, make sure the thermometer does not touch bones or fat.
- Cook beef, veal, lamb, steak and roast to 145 °F; all cuts of pork to 160 °F; ground beef, veal or lamb to 160 °F; egg dishes to 160 °F; whole, pieces, ground or stuffed poultry to 165 °F; and reheat leftovers to 165 °F.
- Cook fish until it is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.
- Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. Do not use recipes in which eggs remain raw or are only partially cooked.
- When cooking in a microwave oven cover the food, stir, and rotate once or twice during cooking to avoid cold spots where bacteria can survive. Use a food thermometer to make sure foods have reached a safe internal temperature.
- Keep hot foods at 140 °F or above.
At room temperature, bacteria in food can double every 20 minutes. The more bacteria, the greater the chance of getting sick. Refrigerate foods quickly to keep most harmful bacteria from multiplying.
- Check the temperature of the refrigerator and freezer with an appliance thermometer. The refrigerator should be at 40 °F or below and the freezer at 0 °F or below. Do not over-stuff the refrigerator.
- Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs and other perishables as soon as you get home from the store.
- Foods are no longer safe to eat when they have been in the temperature danger zone of 40 °F to 140 °F for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour when the temperature is 90 °F.
- Never thaw food at room temperature. The refrigerator is the safest place to thaw food. Make sure meat juices do not drip on other foods. For faster thawing, put food in a strainer under cold, running water (allow sink to drain).
- Food can be thawed in the microwave but must be cooked immediately after thawing.
- Refrigerate foods while they are marinating. Do not re-use marinade to baste food while cooking.
- Refrigerate leftover foods right away. Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.
- Keep cold foods at 40 ° F or below.
The Partnership for Food Safety Education has a special section devoted to stuffing in their Talking Turkey guide.
- Whether it is cooked inside or outside the bird, all stuffing and dressing must be cooked to a minimum temperature of 165ºF. For optimum safety, cooking your stuffing in a casserole dish is recommended.
- Stuffing should be prepared and stuffed into the turkey immediately before it’s placed in the oven.
- Mix wet and dry ingredients for the stuffing separately and combine just before using.
- The turkey should be stuffed loosely, about 3/4 cup stuffing per pound of turkey.
- Any extra stuffing should be baked in a greased casserole dish.
For more information on Food Safety this holiday season, visit the Oakland County Health Division website and view their Food Safety at Home Fact Sheet. Follow along with them for more safety tips and health news on Facebook and Twitter.