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10 Tips For Holiday Home Food Safety
Enjoying food with family and friends is one of the highlights of the holiday season and frequently everyone wants to join in to help, but too many cooks in the kitchen can result in an increased risk of foodborne illness. Here are 10 tips to avoid common kitchen blunders when preparing meals, buffets and even homemade food gifts this holiday season.
- Wash hands before, during and after food preparation. Proper hand washing may eliminate nearly half of all cases of foodborne illnesses. Remember to wash hands when switching tasks, such as handling raw meat and then cutting vegetables.
- Keep kitchen surfaces such as appliances, countertops, cutting boards and utensils clean throughout meal preparation with hot, soapy water.
- Always use two cutting boards: one for raw meat, poultry and fish and the other for ready-to-eat foods, like fruits and vegetables. Make it easy to remember by using color-coded cutting boards, one for raw meats and one for ready-to-eat foods.
- Use separate spoons and forks to taste, stir and serve food.
- Use a food thermometer. It is the ONLY reliable way to determine the doneness of your food and ensure that food is cooked to proper temperatures. Do not rely on "clear juices" to tell that the turkey is done. Use this chart of minimum internal cooking temperatures from HomeFoodSafety.org.
- Refrigerate food within two hours of being served to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria that can lead to food poisoning. This is especially important when serving buffets.
- Use a refrigerator thermometer and make sure it's set at below 40°F.
- Never allow foods to defrost at room temperature, on the counter or in warm water. Defrost food only in the refrigerator or in the microwave. When defrosting food in the refrigerator, remember to cover raw meat and place it on the bottom shelf so juices won't drip onto other foods. When defrosting food in the microwave, cook it immediately afterward.
- If taking food to parties, make sure to observe the same safety habits as at home — keep foods well-refrigerated and cook them to proper temperatures.
- When baking, avoid eating foods containing raw eggs like cookie dough or cake batter. Raw eggs may contain harmful bacteria that can lead to food poisoning.
Joy To The Leftovers
Holiday meals often bring leftovers. Follow these tips to make sure you don't get sick the second time around.
- Store leftovers in shallow containers (two inches deep or less).
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours of cooking the food.
- Remove turkey from the bone and store it separately from the stuffing and gravy; slice breast meat; legs and wings may be left whole.
- Use turkey within three to four days; and stuffing and gravy within one to two days.
- Reheat leftovers to 165°F.
- When in doubt, throw it out!
More tips to stay well over the holidays »
Reviewed April 2013