Pay attention to food safety

Published 9:44 pm Monday, December 17, 2018

When it comes to cooking safety on Christmas and other major holidays, fire safety is usually what comes to mind. And rightly so — unattended cooking can cause devastating home fires, and it’s easy to be distracted while cooking when there are more people at your house and holiday festivities happening.

However, food safety — as in, making sure your food is safe to eat — is also important. Nothing makes a ruined Christmas quite like multiple people in the same family with gastrointestinal illness, or worse.

To that end, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has provided these tips for food safety for your upcoming holiday meals.

  • Wash your hands, but not your turkey — Washing your hands before cooking is the simplest way to stop the spread of bacteria, while washing your turkey is the easiest way to spread bacteria all over your kitchen.
  • Stuff your face but not your turkey — For optimal safety, do not stuff the turkey. Even if the turkey is cooked to the correct internal temperature, the stuffing inside may not have reached a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria. Cooking stuffing in a separate dish is safest.
  • Take the temperature of the bird — The only way to avoid foodborne illness is to make sure the turkey is cooked to the correct internal temperature of 165 degrees F as measured by a food thermometer. If you do cook stuffing in the turkey (not recommended), check its temperature before serving.
  • Consider the food safety advantages of a slow cooker — The direct heat from the pot and lengthy cooking time combine to destroy bacteria, making slow cookers a good choice for safely cooking foods.
  • Follow the two-hour rule — Don’t leave perishable foods at room temperature (on the table or countertops) for longer than two hours.
  • Finally, don’t forget the basics: clean surfaces and utensils; separate raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood from ready-to-eat foods and don’t contaminate plates or utensils with raw juices; cook to proper internal temperatures; and chill, i.e. keep cold foods cold and refrigerate leftovers within two hours.

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