Thanksgiving and the holidays that follow are literally right around the corner. Thankfully you’ve got plenty of tips from Dr. Oz to know what steps should be taken to make your turkey dinner a healthy one. Eating healthy is crucial, but have you considered how to make it a digestively healthy day as well? Thanksgiving brings together friends and family as well as plenty of raw meat and eggs, and this creates an opportunity for food safety to go out the window. Here are a few suggestions to ward off the not-so-festive foodborne illnesses that can occur after your meal.
1. Thaw Your Turkey Correctly
One out of every 4 Americans thaws their turkey in the sink and doing so provides an environment where uneven thawing can occur. For example, the outer portion of the bird can thaw out and actually reach bacteria-friendly temperatures long before the middle parts of the bird do. To avoid this, thaw your bird either in the refrigerator, in the microwave on defrost, or in cold water (make sure to change the water every 30 minutes).
2. Stuffing Shouldn’t Be Stuffed
Never cook your stuffing in the turkey. When you cook the stuffing in the turkey, it often fails to reach an internal cooking temperature of 165° F or higher. If your stuffing isn’t cooked fully, you’ll consume raw eggs with a side of potentially undercooked turkey juice thrown in as well. Additionally, purchasing pasteurized eggs when making stuffing, eggnog, cookies and certain sauces and dressings can help ward off nasty salmonella even further. Most eggs will advertise that they are pasteurized on the package.
3. Common Sense With Cutting Boards
Use separate cutting boards for meats and produce. This is true all year long, of course, yet many people still violate this rule. A few years ago, a friend of mine used the same cutting board to dress the raw turkey and cool the dinner rolls. The raw turkey juices mixed with the rolls and several of her guests became ill. Set aside 3-4 cutting boards and designate ahead of time which boards will be used with which foods.
Most kitchen-savvy individuals know to bring gravy to a boil before serving. This kills off harmful bacteria and provides time for the gravy to thicken; however, they forget to do so again when re-heating. The temperature danger zone for food is between 40-140° F. Food that is left out can easily reach this zone, and when it does, bacteria starts multiplying. The more bacteria multiples, the more are waiting to hit your stomach, and the higher the chance that you’ll be missing the football game after dinner. Imagine how long your gravy sits out on Thanksgiving Day! That’s why it’s so important to cook the gravy to 165 °F or higher before adding it to your leftover mashed potatoes the next day.
Start the clock once the platters of Thanksgiving food hit the table. After 2 hours, they should all be heading into the fridge. Your gravy will stay good for 1-2 days, and your turkey, as well as most casseroles and stuffing, will last 3-4 days. Always remember to reheat to 165° F or higher.
“Home Food Safety Tips.” Home Food Safety. American Dietetic Association. Web. 3 Nov 2010. “Be Thankful for a Thanksgiving Free From Foodborne Illness.” It’s About Eating Right. American Dietetic Association. November 2010. Web. 3 Nov 2010.Kurtzweil Walker, Paula. “Home for the Holidays: Preventing Foodborne Illness at Family Gatherings.” FDA Consumer Magazine. US Department of Agriculture. November-December 2000 issue. Web. 3 Nov 2010.