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Holiday Food Safety

En Español

Don't let foodborne illnesses ruin your holiday cheer! Follow these tips to ensure successful and safe seasonal gatherings.

  • Clean – The first rule of safe food preparation.
  • Separate – Don't give bacteria the opportunity to spread.
  • Cook – Kill harmful bacteria.
  • Chill – Refrigerate foods quickly.

Safe Temperatures

  • Keep foods out of the "danger zone," which is between 40°F and 140°F.
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold; bacteria can double every twenty minutes left in the danger zone.
  • While frozen, food is safe indefinitely, but the quality will degrade over time.
  • Never thaw or marinate foods on the counter.
  • Marinate meat in the refrigerator; this can safely be done for up to 5 days.

Proper Washing

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often -- before, during, and after food preparation.
  • Bacteria can't be washed off raw food. Cooking is the only way to kill potentially dangerous organisms.

Food Separation

  • Separate raw food from cooked/ready to eat food.
  • Either use separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils or thoroughly wash with soap and water between uses.

Leftover Storage

  • Refrigerate any leftovers within 2 hours to prevent the growth of bacteria; these bacteria can't be smelled or tasted.
  • When storing leftovers, cut them into smaller pieces and store them in shallow dishes so they can chill faster.
  • Make sure the refrigerator is not over packed so that proper air circulation will occur; this will ensure proper cooling.
  • Leftovers are safe for 3-4 days in the refrigerator and forever while frozen – use within 2-6 months for the best quality. When in doubt, throw it out.
  • When preparing leftovers, make sure to reheat them to 165°F before serving.

Turkey

Thawing

  • There are three ways to safely thaw turkey:
    • In the refrigerator
    • In cold running water
    • In a microwave oven – but turkey must be cooked immediately after microwave thawing
  • Remove the giblets from the turkey cavities after thawing. Cook separately.

Cooking

  • Once turkey is completely thawed, set the oven temperature ≥ 325°F.
  • Place turkey breast-side up in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2 ½" deep.
  • Your turkey is not safe until it reaches 165°F as indicated by a metal stem food thermometer. Doneness cannot be determined by color.
  • Use three places to check the turkey temperature: the thickest part of the breast, wing, and thigh.
  • Let turkey stand 20 minutes after cooking to allow juices to settle before carving.

Stuffing

  • Cook stuffing immediately after preparing it, or freeze it rather than refrigerating it.
  • When preparing to stuff the cavity of fresh or thawed whole poultry, aim for a moist stuffing mixture, and spoon it loosely into the cavity to allow for proper cooking. Don't cool freshly prepared stuffing before spooning it into the poultry.
  • For stuffing recipes that include poultry, shellfish or meat, precook these raw ingredients before incorporating them into the stuffing.
  • Ensure that any stuffing cooked inside the turkey reaches 165°F.
  • For optimum safety, it is recommended to cook your stuffing in a casserole dish.
  • Store stuffing separately from turkey in a shallow container, even if cooked inside the turkey.

Ham

Ham table
  • For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. Pay attention to the label.
  • Some hams are ready to eat and others must be cooked first. Hams that must be cooked have cooking instructions on the label.

Eggnog

  • Cook the eggs and half of the milk at 160°F while constantly stirring.
  • After cooking, chill the mixture before adding the rest of the milk and other ingredients.
  • Alcohol will not kill bacteria, only cooking will!
  • You can also use egg substitutes or pasteurized eggs as safe alternatives.

Cookie Dough

  • Don't eat uncooked cookie dough, which may contain raw eggs.
  • Keep countertops clean, especially if using them to roll dough.