Advice for Holiday Cooks

Reviewed by Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN
Holiday meal spread - Advice for Holiday Cooks

bhofack2/iStock/Thinkstock

Download: The Holiday Helper tip sheet.

Whether you're an experienced cook or preparing to host your first holiday gathering, a little food safety advice can go a long way and ensure a safe, healthy and happy holiday dinner. Tweet this

A Job Too Well Done?

Cooking to proper internal temperatures not only ensures the safety of your holiday meat, it also helps ensure the taste. To make sure your holiday turkey (or other main meat dish) is both safe and delicious, use a food thermometer to check for doneness.

Tick Tock, Swap

Many holiday meals are buffet or potluck-style. After you set your spread, be sure to set your timer: After two hours, harmful bacteria can multiply rapidly, putting you and your guests at risk of food poisoning. Help ensure the safety of your holiday smorgasbord by promptly refrigerating foods below 40°F within two hours. Or, as a backup for longer gatherings, keep a fresh set of food in the fridge and swap it out at the two-hour mark.

Insider Information

Many people cook stuffing inside their holiday turkey, but some don't know the proper temperature to which it should be cooked! To ensure that your stuffed bird is thoroughly cooked, use a food thermometer to check the internal temperatures of both turkey and stuffing — a whole turkey should reach the safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F deep in the thigh; stuffing should reach 165°F. For safety and uniform doneness of turkey, cook stuffing separately.

Fa La-La-La Leftovers

Eating leftovers from a holiday meal is sometimes as traditional as the meal itself. Whether you reheat leftovers at home or pack a “leftover lunch” to take to work or school, take steps to help ensure the food is both safe and delicious. Always reheat leftover foods to an internal temperature of 165°F and make sure food is not left out of refrigeration for more than two hours. Pack perishable lunch foods in an insulated bag and throw in an ice pack to make sure foods stay properly chilled.

Festive Twist

A festive holiday drink may not be complete without a colorful garnish of lime or orange. But do you remember to wash fruit before adding it to your drink? Wash ready-to eat fruits such as pears and plums, but don’t forget to wash fruits with skin such as limes, oranges and lemons as well. This will help to eliminate harmful bacteria that can spread during peeling or cutting.

Follow our Kitchen Safety Checklist to ensure your kitchen is ready with the tools and resources you need before the big event.

Find an Expert

Need serious help making a plan? The nutrition experts in our professional membership are ready to help you create the change to improve your life.

Search Now