Thanksgiving is a great time for family, friends and loved ones to gather around a table, share memories and stories and enjoy great food - as long as you follow safety guidelines.
The two main dangers associated with cooking at Thanksgiving are foodborne diseases and fires. According to the Center for Disease Control, one in six Americans gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year.
The National Fire Prevention Association claims that cooking fires are the No. 1 cause of home fires, with Thanksgiving the peak day for home cooking fires. And for you turkey deep fryers out there, take extra care – fires from these appliances cause an annual average of five civilian deaths, 60 civilian injuries, and $15 million in direct property damage per year. The Montgomery County Fire Department offers the following fire prevention tips for Thanksgiving.
To insure your family has the safest holiday possible, Patch checked in with “Guru of Gobble” Heather Foley to get the 411 on Thanksgiving food preparation, cooking and storage safety.
General Kitchen Safety
- Keep things separate and clean! People tend to have many things going on at once in the kitchen on Thanksgiving, and may overlook some basic food safety issues. Make sure to keep your work areas from getting cross-contaminated. Clean the countertop, cutting board or any utensils that have come in contact with raw turkey before working on any other dishes. If you have disinfectant cleaner or wipes, even better!
- Turkeys, like other poultry, must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees to prevent contamination from salmonella. Make sure you have an instant-read or digital thermometer to insert into the thickest part of the thigh, but don’t touch any bone.
- The term “stuffing” is a misnomer – I suggest moving away from tradition and NOT “stuffing” your bird with bread, veggies and spices to cook this popular side dish. Be safe and prepare it separately.
- The best rule of thumb is to “chill out.” Bacteria are most likely to spread between 40 and 140 degrees, so make sure to put your leftovers in containers and get them in the fridge or freezer as soon as possible. You should use any refrigerated foods within three days, while frozen foods can last as long as four months – just remember to reheat to that safe internal temperature of 165 degrees.
For additional tips, inlcuding holiday meal planning you can check out Whole Foods Market’s on-line guide.