Friday, November 21, 2014

Leftover Safety - How not be killed by your own food.

 While you are stressing about all the little things that need to be taken care of for the big Thanksgiving holiday, I thought it best to pass on some reminders about food safety. Because as important as it is that your potatoes are creamy, your kids have nice manners, and somebody remembers to take some pictures of everyone around the table.... it is also important that you don't send everyone home with sick stomachs and cursing you through the night and the next day. Enough graphic imagery for you? Let's get to the information -

Safe Thawing - Thawing turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature. The "danger zone" is between 40 and 140°F — the temperature range where food borne bacteria multiply rapidly. While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely, but as soon as it begins to thaw, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow again, if it is in the "danger zone."

Live Well Utah has a fantastic step-by-step guide that will take you from thawing your bird, cooking it, serving it and getting it put away. 

To Stuff - or Not to Stuff ? - I don't want to get all political during the holidays and cause hurt feelings, but honestly people, Stop!! putting that "stuffing" into your turkeys - It is Gross!  If you aren't going to listen to sanity - or reason, HERE is the information that you absolutely must have. But really, make some gorgeous dressing, put it in a casserole dish (or better yet, a crock pot) and don't risk the lives of your guests for something that does nothing to improve the flavor of the dish. (I feel a little bit strongly about this) 

Cook It - Set the oven temperature no lower than 325°F and be sure the turkey is completely thawed. Place turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep. Check the internal temperature at the center of the stuffing and meaty portion of the breast, thigh, and wing joint using a food thermometer. Cooking times will vary. The food thermometer must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat. For more information on safe internal temperatures, visit's Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures

More Information

Poultry Preparation, 
Turkey Basics: Handling Cooked Dinners & Leftovers, 
Turkey Basics: Safe Cooking, 
Thanksgiving Holiday Resources

Let There Be Leftovers! - I really don't get all gaga for the actual Thanksgiving dinner. I could take it or leave it, but don't mess with me and my LOVE for leftovers. I even cook way more that I know we are going to need because I want to be sure that I have a sufficient supply of turkey for sandwiches, sweet potatoes for midnight snacks, and rolls to snack on while I am waiting for my plate of leftovers to heat in the microwave.

But You can make just as many food safety mistakes putting the food away (or NOT putting the food away) as you can while you are preparing the meal.

Follow the Two-Hour Rule
Hot, perishable food that sits out for longer than two hours is considered unsafe to eat and needs to be thrown away. This is because the temperature of the food has most likely been in the food danger zone for too long. This period of time allows for bacteria to rapidly reproduce and contaminate the food. So, if it's been two hours since the Thanksgiving table was set and there's still food on it, do not bother bagging it up and putting it in the fridge. Just throw it away.

Take Care when Sending Leftovers Home with Guests
Sending leftovers home with guests is a great way to minimize the amount of refrigerator or freezer space needed by the host. However, the two-hour rule still applies. Consider the amount of travel time your guest has from house to house. If it's longer than two hours, give them a cooler and some ice to get the food home safely. Better yet, ask them beforehand to come prepared with their own cooler.

Use the Refrigerator or Freezer, or Both
Heaps of turkey and stuffing leftovers call for a dual storage strategy. Here's how to decide what goes where:

Storing Turkey in the Fridge
Leftover turkey can keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator and still be safe to eat.

Storing Turkey in the Freezer
In the freezer, leftovers should be eaten within 6 months. After this period, it is not safety that suffers, only quality as the food will become more susceptible to freezer burn.

Store Leftovers in Shallow Containers
The faster leftovers can cool, the better, because they spend less time in the Food Danger Zone (40 °F to 140 °F). The best way to decrease the cooling time for leftovers is to store them in shallow pans or containers, which decreases the surface area of the food that needs to cool. Also, leftover turkey should be cut into smaller pieces, to decrease its surface area, too.

Store Stuffing Apart from the Turkey
Sure, stuffing can be cooked inside the turkey, but once cooking is done, that union needs to be broken. If turkey and stuffing are stored together, there is a risk of salmonella bacteria contaminating the stuffing. Storing the items separately in shallow containers is the only way to assure proper food safety.

Way to Go! You stayed for the whole thing... as your reward here are the top 5 Turkey Fails from the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline. 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854)

Here are their Panic Button Questions.  - Now Relax .