Tips for a Safe Thanksgiving Meal

It’s Thanksgiving week and the perfect time for Margaret Viebrock, County Director of WSU Extension in Chelan and Douglas County, to explain the importance of food safety during the holidays.

Let’s start by defrosting the turkey. It’s important to consider how far into Thanksgiving you should safely start thawing that bird. Viebrock explains a simple formula, if you have a frozen bird.

“If you’re buying frozen poultry, it takes five pounds every 24 hours to thaw if you throw it in the fridge,” says Viebrock, who has 50 years of consumer science experience at WSU. She says if you’re a bit behind on that schedule, say a 20-pound bird would need to thaw 5 days in the refrigerator, then you can thaw the packaged turkey in a sink filled with cold water. However, Viebrock stresses that to safely thaw turkey this way, you need to change the water every 30 minutes and keep it cold. The risk of thawing a turkey in the sink is keeping the water bath cold at about 40 degrees. Anything warmer will allow bacteria to start growing. If you can thaw your frozen turkey in time for Thanksgiving preparation or when you plan to roast the bird, it can safely stay thawed in your refrigerator for two to three days.

So what if you don’t have enough time to defrost a frozen turkey in time for Thanksgiving prep?

Consider buying a fresh bird. Some families are buying chickens or chicken or turkey breasts. Viebrock points out if there’s no need for leftovers, or just the cost of Thanksgiving menu items. A fresh turkey should be safe to eat if properly refrigerated for about seven days before serving.

Viebrock has other security tips;

Storing thawed turkey or any food safely means that your refrigerator should be between 40 and 41 or below. She suggests a good refrigerator thermometer to tell what your refrigerator is running at.

Viebrock suggests that, when it comes to food safety, when you go shopping for that turkey, grab a meat thermometer, too. His recommendation; buy one of the electronic ones that when you taste your food with that, you just need to put the tip in. They are battery operated and very accurate.

And when you’re checking the thermometer on a turkey breast or dark meat, there will be different readings. Poultry is safely cooked to 165 degrees. But you should try it in several places. Viebrock receives questions about the degree of doneness of birds that have been cooked to the proper temperature. “Poultry have been bred to grow quickly and hormones are not allowed. Sometimes the meat is close to the bone, it’s a little pink because of the collagen in the bones.” As long as you’ve reached the temperature in the thickest part of the meat at 165, you’re safe.

While many cooks use the guideline of around 15-20 minutes roast time per pound, that will give you an estimate of when to start cooking the bird, but the thermometer is the safest practice to ensure the meat is fully cooked. .

safe brine; Consider the food safety aspect of your brine container, just don’t go down and use one of those orange or blue buckets from the department store. Anything you make with food and in a container outside of what appears to be your normal cooking plate or pots and pans should be food-grade. “Stores sell food grade cubes, you can go into a bakery and they have bins where they’ve sourced another product that’s considered food grade.” Viebrock cautions that many containers have been treated to control odor, so it won’t make food safe once it’s been placed inside.

Leftovers; When it comes to food safety, one of the traditions that most people would enjoy on Thanksgiving is leftovers. It is perhaps one of the most critical areas of food hazard. Viebrock says it’s critical that you don’t leave food out for more than two hours. Break the turkey into smaller pieces, remove the stuffing from the inside, and place in shallow containers in the refrigerator and chill. The reason behind the two hour window is so that the bacteria do not start to grow. “You can see mold, but you can’t see bacteria, smell it, or taste it. So don’t bother testing it. Because if it’s started to go bad, you could get sick.” A good rule of thumb for leftovers is three to four days in the fridge. If you can’t eat it within that time frame, it should go in the freezer.

Keep it on ice; Fresh dips and dressings for fries and vegetable trays should also be limited to about two hours at room temperature, and then put back in the fridge. If that’s not feasible, serve them on ice. Viebrock says not to forget that the ice should be level with the food in the container. And don’t take out so much food that you can’t throw it away after a couple of hours or bring out a new plate.

The bottom line of holiday food safety according to Viebrock is that many times we think someone gets sick during the holidays. Maybe it was because of the proximity to relatives. Maybe it was because there were some bad food safety practices as well.

“Most people think they have the 24-hour flu. Scientifically, there’s no such thing as a 24-hour flu. The 24-hour period where you spend time in the bathroom is really a mild case of food poisoning. And how it affects people is different.” .

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