UPDATE: This post is written by Carla Davis for Alabama NewsCenter. Learn more at: http://alabamanewscenter.com
On Thanksgiving, many people will be spending hours in the kitchen, preparing the biggest meal of the year. It’s often the only time that many of those family favorites – especially the turkey – are on the menu.
It’s important to keep these safety tips in mind while preparing that family feast:
- Keep work surfaces clean. Wash utensils, hands and sinks after handling raw food.
- Carefully thaw the turkey. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends keeping a turkey in the refrigerator in its original wrapping in a pan or tray that can catch any juices that may drip as the bird thaws.
- Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils when handling raw turkey to avoid cross-contamination. Wash items that have touched raw meat with warm water and soap, or place them in a dishwasher.
- Cook the turkey until it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the turkey’s temperature by inserting a food thermometer in three places: the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the thigh and the innermost part of the wing.
- Avoid putting too many pots and pans on the stove, which could lead to a grease fire.
- Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove. Ensure they are out of the reach of children.
- Don’t try to extinguish a grease fire by dousing it with water, which will cause the flames to spread or flare. Turn off the burner, put on an oven mitt and smother the flames by placing a lid onto the pot or pan. Keep the lid on the pan until it is cool.
- Always have a fire extinguisher near the stove and know how to use it before an emergency occurs.
- If there is an oven fire, immediately turn off the heat and keep the range door shut to prevent flames from burning you or your clothing.
- Wear short or tight-fitting sleeves when cooking and keep long hair tied back. Loose clothing can be a fire hazard if it touches a hot burner.
- Don’t leave food unattended while it is being cooked. Fires often occur when no one is watching a pot or pan.
For some people, leftovers are the best part of the holiday. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends these steps to help preserve leftover Thanksgiving dishes:
- Refrigerate leftovers within two hours to prevent bacteria from growing on the food.
- Store leftovers in shallow pans or containers to prevent the food from spending too much time at unsafe temperatures (from 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Avoid eating leftovers that have remained in the refrigerator for longer than 3 or 4 days. To keep them for longer periods, store leftovers in the freezer.
- Place 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.
For more information, visit www.FoodSafety.gov. With questions about safely cooking the thanksgiving bird, call the USDA Food and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854).