Thursday, December 14

Preparing Your Holiday Meal Safely

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There are a lot of things to think about when preparing your Holiday Meal. Keeping your Holiday guests safe from food poisoning isn’t something that usually crosses peoples minds simply because they are not aware of some of the things they are doing that may cause food poisoning right in their own kitchen. The most important thing to remember is to wash your hands properly before and after touching any food item.

Planning and Shopping

Keeping food safe is something to think about even in the planning stages. How many things will you be preparing at the same time and do you have enough room to keep it chilled before and during your preparations?

  • Before you go shopping for all of the things that you will need for your Holiday meal make sure that your refrigerator and freezer have been cleaned out and organized so that nothing that should be chilled or frozen sits out at room temperature while you try to make room for it.

  • Organize your list by dry goods, frozen goods and refrigerated goods.

  • Shop for your dry goods first, then frozen, then refrigerated to keep your food at the proper temperature for the longest amount of time possible.

  • If you will be making several stops when you go grocery shopping, make sure that the grocery store is your last stop on the way home. Leaving food that should be chilled in the car while you make another stop increases the risk of having it enter the temperature danger zone where bacteria can begin to grow.

  • When you get home with your groceries, put away your refrigerated items, then your frozen items, then your dry goods.

Thawing and Storing Meats

The biggest mistake that most people make while preparing food at home is leaving their meats out in room temperature to thaw. Doing this could greatly increase the time for bacteria to grow because the outside will thaw first and raise into the temperature danger zone while the inside is still frozen. There are only two safe ways to thaw meats. You can simply let the meat thaw in the refrigerator or you can “force thaw” under cold running water. To force thaw, place your meat in a bowl or pan under a constant stream of cold running water, not hot water. Using hot water will have a more dangerous effect than leaving your meat out in room temperature to thaw. Using cold water will keep the temperature down and the flow of the constantly running water will help the meat to thaw faster.

It is important to remember not to thaw different kinds of meats next to each other. This may cause cross-contamination. Keep your ready to eat foods away from raw meats at all times. Never use the same knife, cutting board or preparation area for both raw meat and any other type of food with out thoroughly cleaning them first.

Keep Hot Food Hot and Cold Food Cold

You will most likely be preparing several dishes that should be served hot for your Holiday Meal. Try to plan a way to keep them hot at all times before serving, possibly by using a warming plate or warm oven. If you prepare a hot item before the big meal and intend to simply reheat it, make sure that it chills thoroughly within four hours. An easy and effective way to do this is by placing it in an ice bath. Use a container larger than the one that is holding the item and fill the bottom with ice. Place the hot item onto the ice and put ice all the way around the sides. Once the item has cooled, immediately place it in the refrigerator. When reheating, ensure that the entire dish reaches at least 165 degrees in the center by using a meat thermometer.

You will also want to make sure that your poultry and pork reach at least 165 degrees and your seafood reaches 140 degrees.

After your Meal

When leftovers are involved, the risk of food borne illness does not end after the original meal. When everyone has finished eating, make sure to get all leftovers that are at risk of spoiling put into the refrigerator right away.

For More Information

For more information on food safety, visit www.fda.gov.

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