The winter holiday season is upon us. A time for potlucks, office parties, and family gatherings where we share meals and make memories. Ensure those memories are full of holiday cheer and not the wrong side of a throne room by keeping some important things in mind when handling food. Following these tips could ensure your holidays are free of foodborne illness.
Keep foods separated. Meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs should be separated from all other foods in your grocery cart and in the refrigerator. Make sure perishable foods are chilled within 2 hours of shopping. Meat, poultry, and seafood should be kept in containers or in sealed plastic bags to prevent drippings from getting into other foods. To protect eggs from breaking and contaminating ready-to-eat food, keep them in their original carton. Additionally, raw turkey should be stored on the lowest shelf possible in the refrigerator to prevent contamination of other foods.
Keep food out of the danger zone. The food danger zone is between 40°F and 140°F when bacteria can grow rapidly. After food is prepared, keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Within 2 hours after serving, perishable foods need to be either refrigerated or frozen. The temperature in your refrigerator should be set at or below 40°F and the freezer at or below 0°F.
Use pasteurized eggs for dishes requiring raw eggs. Eggs sometimes contain Salmonella and other harmful germs. Most germs are undetectable. Pasteurized eggs go through a heating process that kills any harmful bacteria making them safe to use in holiday favorites such as eggnog, tiramisu, hollandaise sauce, and Caesar dressing.
Prepare small platters and dishes that can be replaced periodically. Store backup dishes in the oven or refrigerator at the correct temperature. Remove the food that is left out for more than 2 hours and be sure to use a completely fresh container.
Remember the 2-Hour Rule. Discard any perishables left out at room temperature any longer than that. Also, watch the clock with any leftovers, they should be refrigerated as soon as guests arrive home and/or within 2 hours.
Wash hands often and keeps kitchen surfaces clean. Handwashing whenever switching tasks can help prevent cross-contamination and using hot, soapy water to clean countertops and surfaces, cutting boards, refrigerator door handles, and utensils will ensure germs won’t spread.
Store leftovers in shallow, covered containers. This spreads out the food, allowing it to cool quicker which helps it stay safe longer. Removing the bones from the turkey and slicing it into smaller pieces will help it cool faster. Then be sure to store it separately from the stuffing and gravy. Use turkey, stuffing, and gravy within 3 to 4 days.
Use paper towels. Sponges and kitchen towels can easily soak up bacteria and cross-contaminate kitchen surfaces and hands. When food prep becomes hectic, disposable paper towels can reduce the chance of cross-contamination.
Have a safe and happy holiday season by following these four simple steps – separate, cook, clean, and chill.