“If residents follow the same proper food handling as restaurants, it can help prevent foodborne illnesses from happening in homes, too. Safely handling food when preparing and cooking is important – as is correctly storing leftovers, frequent hand-washing and thoroughly cleaning surfaces that come into contact with raw food,” said EMD Environmental Health Division Deputy Chief Kelly McCoy.
You can prevent foodborne illness during the holidays with safe food handling practices at home. Take the EMD Home Kitchen Self-Inspection Quiz
to see if your kitchen passes inspection. Once you pass, go ahead and proudly display your “Green” placard in your kitchen.
SAFE TURKEY 101
When preparing a turkey, be aware of five important safety issues: thawing, preparing, stuffing, cooking to proper temperature, and handling of leftovers.
#1 Safe Thawing
Thawing turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature in the refrigerator. The "danger zone" is between 41 and 135°F — this is the temperature range where foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly. While frozen, a turkey is safe for up to six months, 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." Give yourself enough lead time to thaw your turkey safely in your refrigerator.
#2 Safe Preparation
As you prepare the turkey, bacteria present on raw poultry can contaminate your hands, utensils and work surfaces, which then can be transferred. After working with raw poultry, always wash utensils and work surfaces, as well as your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before touching other foods.
#3 Safe Stuffing
For optimal safety and uniform doneness, cook the stuffing outside the turkey in a casserole dish. However, if you place stuffing inside the turkey, do so just before cooking, and use a food thermometer. Make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165°F, possibly resulting in foodborne illness.
#4 Safe Cooking
Before cooking, always thaw turkeys completely in the refrigerator. Set the oven temperature no lower than 325°F. Place turkey breast-side up on a wire rack in a shallow roasting pan. Check the internal temperature using a food thermometer – the center of the stuffing and meaty portion of the breast, thigh and wing joint must reach 165°F at a minimum. Cooking times will vary. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes. Remove all stuffing from the cavity and carve the meat.
#5 Handling Leftovers
Perishable foods should not be left out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours. For optimum results, remove turkey meat from the bone and promptly refrigerate or freeze leftovers in shallow containers. Reheating a whole turkey is NOT recommended. To reheat turkey, cut the meat into smaller pieces and keep legs and wings whole – before serving the turkey. Be sure to reheat all your leftovers to a minimum of 165°F.
#6 Leftover Storage Timeframes
Refrigerator (41°F or below)
• Cooked turkey …… 3 to 4 days
• Cooked dishes and gravy …… 3 to 4 days
Freezer (0 °F or below)
• Turkey, plain; slices or pieces …… 4 mos.
• Turkey covered with broth or gravy …… 6 mos.
• Cooked poultry dishes, stuffing, and gravy …… 4-6 mos.