Quick Tips for Holiday Food Safety
Updated: Nov 19
K-State Research and Extension News for November 2022
Submitted by Franny Eastwood, Extension Agent
Thanksgiving is a time for families to gather and enjoy each other - not suffer from food poisoning! Here are a few quick tips to keep your family healthy:
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends thawing the turkey in the refrigerator. It takes about 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of turkey, not including the day you cook it. A 20-24 pound turkey would take 5-6 days to thaw.
For optimum safety, do not stuff your turkey. Place stuffing in a separate baking dish or pan to cook.
USDA recommends an oven temperature no lower than 325°F for cooking a turkey along with using a food thermometer to make sure the thickest part of the turkey reads 165°F. A 20-24 pound turkey may take about 5 hours to cook.
Avoid cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils when handling raw turkey. Wash items that have touched raw meat with warm soap and water or place them in a dishwasher.
Refrigerate leftovers within two hours to prevent bacteria from growing on the food. Eat leftovers in the refrigerator within 3-4 days. Use the freezer to store leftovers for longer periods.
Do not overfill your refrigerator, as it causes it to work too hard and may not keep it at 40°F or below.
Healthy Holiday Safety Tips
Clean out your refrigerator the week before the event to make room for thawing items and storing leftovers.
Use a refrigerator thermometer to check that your refrigerator is 40°F or below.
Frequently wash your hands with water and soap for 20 seconds.
Simplify the day by preparing foods the day before if possible.
Do not prepare food when you are ill.
Use a calibrated food thermometer.
Store leftovers in shallow containers to decrease cooling time. This prevents food from spending too much time at unsafe temperatures.
Keep leftovers in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs if the food is traveling home with a guest who lives more than two hours away.
If you are traveling this holiday season:
Transport Food Safely
Keep hot foods hot (140°F or higher) by wrapping them in foil, and then in heavy towels or carry them in insulated wrappers or containers designed to keep food hot.
Keep cold foods cold (40°F or lower) by placing them in a cooler with ice or freezer packs or an insulated container with a cold pack designed to keep food cold.
Place cold foods in the refrigerator.
Place hot foods in an oven hot enough to keep the food at an internal temperature of 140°F or above; use a food thermometer to ensure the food stays at a safe internal temperature.
Plan to serve food shortly after guests have arrived.
Avoid the Danger Zone
By keeping hot food hot and cold food cold, you are avoiding the Danger Zone (temperatures between 40 - 140°F) where bacteria grow rapidly.
Perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, and casseroles kept at room temperature for longer than 2 hours should be thrown out.
Ready-to-eat foods such as cookies, crackers, bread, and whole fruit are exceptions to the Danger Zone
Source: University of Nebraska Lincoln Food Calendar. For more information on nutrition, food safety, health, or family and child development contact the Marais des Cygnes Extension District, or write to firstname.lastname@example.org or check out our website: www.maraisdescygnes.k-state.edu