Living Well Food Safety

November 21, 2019
Pharmacy & Wellness
Food Safety, turkey tips

Have a Happy and Healthy Holiday
There’s nothing worse than getting really sick right when you are trying to enjoy the holiday season with family and friends. Did you know that one in six Americans get sick each year from eating contaminated foods? Don’t let contaminated food be the reason you have to sit the party out! Stick to the tips below for a smooth-running, healthy holiday season.

Always follow directions on food labels.
If the package says to refrigerate after opening, do that! Continually check the dates on labels to see if they are expired, check for mold growth and make sure hot foods are being put into the fridge as soon as possible to make sure bacteria does not grow.

Buying the turkey: Always buy a fresh or frozen turkey, not pre-stuffed. Use the following chart to decide how big of a turkey to buy:

Whole bird: 1 Pound per person
Boneless breast of turkey: 1/2 Pound per person
Breast of turkey: 3/4 Pound per person
Prestuffed frozen turkey: 1 1/4 Pounds per person, and keep frozen until ready to cook

Thawing the turkey: Put the frozen turkey in the refrigerator for 24 hours (based on a five pound turkey). It can remain in the refrigerator for up to two days. Do NOT leave the turkey to thaw on the counter. If you forgot to thaw the turkey ahead of time you can safely thaw it in a cold-water bath after being put into a leak-proof bag, making sure to change the water every 30 minutes. You can also put the turkey in the microwave and set it to a lower power level setting.

Cleaning & preparation: It’s very important to wash you hands before working with any food due to transferring bacteria. Make sure to wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. Also, clean and sanitize all surfaces like counters, cutting boards, and utensils. Repeat both cleaning your hands and surfaces before cooking, in between preparing different ingredients, and after everything is done. Only use certain cutting boards for raw meat and other cutting boards for fresh produce so bacteria isn’t transferred between foods.

Stuffing the turkey: Stuff the turkey the day of thanksgiving and use moist stuffing.

Cooking: Use the following information to determine how long to cook your turkey at 325F oven temperature:

Unstuffed Turkey:
8-12 Pounds: 2 3/4 to 3 hours
12-14 Pounds: 3 to 3 3/4 hours
14-18 Pounds: 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
18-20 Pounds: 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
20-24 Pounds: 4 1/2 to 5 hours

Stuffed Turkey:
8-12 Pounds: 3 to 3 1/2 hours
12-14 Pounds: 3 1/2 to 4 hours
14-18 Pounds: 4 to 4 1/4 hours
18-20 Pounds: 4 1/4 to 4 3/4 hours
20-24 Pounds: 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 hours

Check the internal temperature to see if the meat is fully cooked by inserting a meat thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and thickest part of the breast and verify that all parts reach a minimum of 165 degrees F. Let stand 20 minutes after removing from the oven and before unstuffing or carving.

Use the following temperature guidelines for checking temperatures after cooking:
145 degrees F: whole cuts of beef, pork, veal and lamb
160 degrees F: ground meats like beef or pork
165 degrees F: poultry, including ground chicken and turkey and for leftovers and casseroles
145 degrees F: fresh ham (raw) and fin fish

Serving: Foods should be hot held at 140 degrees F or warmer and cold foods should be held at 40 degrees F or colder if they are being left on the table during dinner.

Storing the leftovers: Even though we are all wanting to lounge around after eating a large thanksgiving dinner, it’s important to refrigerate the leftover stuffing and turkey within two hours of cooking. Cut the turkey into small pieces and store in a shallow container for better cooling. Use leftovers within three to four days or freeze it. Make sure to reheat leftovers until steaming hot. Meat defrosted in the fridge can be refrozen before or after cooking but if thawed other ways, cook before refreezing.

The more steps you take to keep your workstation and food clean, the safer you are against food poisoning!

Ellen Miller is a dietetic intern at Western Michigan University. She grew up in Racine, Wisconsin and is an avid Packer and Badger fan. Ellen received her bachelor’s in Dietetics and master’s in Human Nutritional Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. While earning her bachelor’s degree she studied abroad for a month in Costa Rica to improve her Spanish. She also played tennis in high school and throughout college. She loves working with kids and learning new ways to enhance the health and nutrition of people around her. In her free time, she loves to travel, try new foods, go to concerts, watch or attend sporting events and play tennis.