Safe Cooking Tips For The Holidays
Holiday mealtime provides plenty of fun times. But it can also offer up some pretty unpleasant ones if festive foods have been handled improperly. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that extra caution be taken at holiday time, when meals are served in larger quantities from kitchens much busier than usual.
When planning your guest list, try to decide how many people you can serve, safely. How much space you have to keep food stored properly is just as important as table space and serving areas. Perishable foods should never be kept at room temperature for more than two hours. When meat, poultry, and dairy products remain at room temperature too long, food bacteria can multiply in dangerous numbers.
Certain traditional holiday foods require special attention. Bacteria thrive in foods such as turkey stuffing, cream pies and eggnog.
Food experts say the safest way to cook a turkey is to roast the stuffing and the bird separately, because bacteria thrive on the ingredients of a stuffing and the moist warm, interior of the turkey.
For cooks who insist their turkey must be stuffed before its roasted, there are a few precautions:
Prepare stuffing in advance, refrigerate -- then stuff the turkey just before it goes in the oven.
Thaw frozen turkey in the refrigerator. A frozen bird may only be safely thawed outside by placing the turkey in a watertight package and submerging it in cold water. Or, wrap the turkey in two closed paper bags and thaw overnight.
For holiday buffets, keep servings small and replenish when necessary directly from stove or refrigerator.