How to safely prepare your meal this Thanksgiving
According to the Knox County Health Department, there are five aspects before, during and after cooking that will keep Thanksgiving hosts and guests healthy.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Thanksgiving is this Thursday, and meal preparation is on many people’s minds. There are several things to remember to make sure your meal is prepared safely and foodborne illness is avoided.
According to the Knox County Health Department (KCHD) there are five aspects before, during and after cooking that will keep Thanksgiving hosts and guests healthy: cleaning, separating, cooking, chilling and reheating.
Environmental Health Specialist for KCHD Camila Almeida said sanitizing your hands and cooking surfaces is the first step.
“Anytime you’re handling raw proteins, after you handle them wash your hands with warm soap and water for at least twenty seconds,” said Almeida. “Especially if you’re touching the outside of your salt and pepper shakers or your seasoning containers.”
When cooking, it is important to make sure raw foods are not cross-contaminated with ready-to-eat foods.
“We want to keep foods that are going to be cooked separate from those that are going to be eaten fresh,” said Head of the Food Science Department at the University of Tennessee Rob Williams. “ We want to make sure that raw poultries and meats are not prepared on the same cutting boards that we are going to prepare salads.
Almeida said Monday is the last day to pull your turkey to thaw it so that it can be fully cooked on Thanksgiving.
“It takes anywhere for 48 to 72 hours for a fully frozen bird to thaw inside of refrigeration and we never recommend thawing it in a sink because it can take much longer,” said Almeida. “The outside of the turkey will be warm when the inside is still rock solid.”
Almeida also said putting your turkey in the sink leads to increased risk of foodborne illness.
“That can splatter salmonella onto your counters. So, take your turkey, remove the packaging. Don’t forget to remove the insides once it’s fully thawed and then cook it to an internal temperature of over 165 degrees,” she said.
You should use an easy to read thermometer in the thickest part of the breast to check temperature.
After cooking, you only have two hours to put away any leftovers you want to keep. Those are good in the fridge for three to four days, and good in the freezer for two to six months. When reheating this food it should again reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Almeida also stressed the importance of not cooking if you are sick.
“We see an uptick in disease from October through March because that’s when we see the most transmission of norovirus,” said Almeida. “There are people in our community right now who are actively ill who are really looking forward to feeling better by Thursday. We really recommend that you be symptom free for 48 hours before you prepare food for others and wear gloves while you’re preparing those foods to stop the spread of disease.”
You can find all of KNHD’s food safety recommendations here.
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