Thanksgiving is the holiday we are all familiar with that originated from when the Pilgrims celebrated their first successful harvest in America around the 1620’s. Today most families celebrate this holiday by spending time with family and expressing what they are most grateful for. For my family, one of our favorite traditions is watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and eating one of the largest meals that is prepared once a year for this holiday. This year, instead of the usual things we give thanks to, let’s focus on giving thanks to food safety and all of the work that goes into keeping the food we consume on Thanksgiving, safe.
According to the USDA, “in calls to the United States Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline, turkey is the most often asked about food category by consumers” (Turkey from Farm to Table). So, let’s talk turkey and understand why taking cautious steps to preparing a turkey is important, and learn about what we need to do ourselves, as consumers, to finish preparing the turkey safely.
Turkeys are a “large, widely domesticated North American bird that are fed a diet of mainly corn and soybean meal with a supplement of vitamins and minerals. After being butchered, all turkeys found in retail stores are inspected for evidence of disease. For example, Salomnella Enteritidis is a common foodborne organism that can be found in the intestinal track of warm-blooded animals, such as turkeys” (Turkey from Farm to Table). This is why individuals need to air on the side of caution when preparing turkey, so it can be done properly.
Nelson-Jameson cares about your families safety, and that’s why we advocate eliminating the possibility of cross-contamination this holiday season. Here are some tips on how to safely handle and prepare turkey for Thanksgiving:
- If purchasing a frozen turkey, allow approximately 24 hours of thawing for every 4 to 5 pounds the turkey weighs. There are three ways you can thaw your turkey safely—in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in a microwave oven. Reminder to keep the turkey in its original wrapper and place it on a tray to catch any excess juices that may leak from the turkey (Let’s Talk Turkey, 2015).
- When roasting your turkey, set your oven temperature no lower than 325° F. Make sure to place your turkey on a rack in a shallow roasting pan (Let’s Talk Turkey, 2015).
- If the turkey has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165° F, it should be safe to eat. To get the most accurate measurement, measure the temperature with a food thermometer in the innermost part of the thigh and wing, and the thickest part of the breast (Let’s Talk Turkey, 2015).
- When storing leftovers, discard any turkey, stuffing, or gravy that has been left out at room temperature longer than 2 hours. Divide the leftovers into smaller portions, and refrigerate or freeze in covered shallow containers for quicker cooling. Use refrigerated turkey, stuffing, and gravy within 3 to 4 days, or use frozen leftovers within 2 to 6 months for best quality (Let’s Talk Turkey, 2015).
As we remember to be thankful for the things most important to us in our lives this year, follow these food safety tips, and you’ll give thanks for a happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving.
Ah, Thanksgiving. An occasion to give pause, show gratitude and celebrate our freedoms and blessings with friends and family. Oh, and also a time to eat… A LOT. But before you belly up to your harvest table on Thursday, keep in mind some food safety tips that will save your Thanksgiving holiday from running a-fowl:
- While the first Thanksgiving feast likely centered around wildfowl and venison, modern Thanksgiving dinners feature turkey. Turkey is somewhat easy to make (or so I’ve been told), but it’s important to follow some basic food safety rules when handling and cooking your turkey. The USDA recommends thawing frozen turkeys in cold water, but thawing via microwave is also acceptable. When handling the turkey, remember to wash your hands often but DO NOT wash the turkey—a bird bath in the kitchen is a sure way to spread pathogens to other surfaces. Remember, the only way to ensure that you’ve killed potentially harmful bacteria is to thoroughly cook the turkey at a minimum of 325° F until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F in three places: the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh, and the innermost part of the wing. Finally, it’s probably pretty safe to say that you’ll be stuffed at the end of your meal, but remember that your bird really shouldn’t be, so that you can ensure even cooking. If you’re a stuffed-poultry traditionalist, don’t fret—the USDA has safety guidelines available for all you fast-and-loose Thanksgiving cooks.
- There’s more to Thanksgiving than turkey. If you’re like me, the real stars of the Thanksgiving table are the appetizers, side dishes and desserts. While these items are usually a little less dangerous from a food safety-perspective than handling and preparing raw poultry, it’s important to remember that pathogens can develop in just about any food via cross-contamination. Remember to keep meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and produce separated when shopping and preparing foods. In addition, remember to keep cold foods cold (40°F), and hot foods hot (140°F).
- Ok, so you’re stuffed and ready to settle in for some football-watching and a nap. Your food safety job is done, right? Wrong. It’s important to properly handle the leftovers so that you can enjoy them the next day without threat of illness. As we insinuated above, bacteria grows rapidly between the temperatures of 40°F and 140°F. So, it’s important that safely-prepared food is left out at room temperature no longer than two hours. When refrigerating leftovers, make sure to cover them, wrap them in airtight packaging or seal them in storage containers to help keep bacteria out. Leftovers can be left in the refrigerator for three to four days, and in the freezer for three to four months. When reheating leftovers, make sure they reach an internal temperature of atleast 165°F.
Follow these food safety tips, and you’ll give thanks for a happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving. Gobble, gobble, everyone!
Source: Food Network
In our house, there are two camps when “Black Friday” hits: the “Dedicated Shoppers” and, those like myself, the “Thanks, I’m Not Giving Up” eaters.
The “Thanks, I’m Not Giving Up,” population, still basking in the glory of the stomach-stuffing of the previous day, shuns leaving the home in favor of recreating the glory of Thanksgiving though various helpings of leftovers throughout the day. Often, this is done in a traditional wardrobe of elastic-waist fleece pants and a hooded sweatshirt. In such regalia, the following exchanges may take place (in one’s head):
Q: “Would I like a mound of reheated green bean casserole?”
A: “Please…I think it only gets better on the second day!”
Q: “Care for some stuffing reanimated with a healthy dose of leftover gravy?”
A: “Well, it is the holiday season…”
Q: “Can I fit the rest of the turkey leftovers into one sandwich?”
A: “Well, I suppose everyone else ate while they were out shopping…”
Much like with Black Friday shoppers, it pays to plan, my fellow “Thanks, I’m Not Giving Up” eaters! As soon as Thanksgiving is over, start thinking strategy! To avoid making it a “Blech Friday,” (the natural enemy of seasonal reheat-aficionados) consider some of these tips from Diane Van, Food Safety Education Staff Deputy Director of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: