Thanksgiving dinner. You know not to chop your vegetables on the same cutting board you use for the bird, and you know to use a meat thermometer to check temperature. Still, is your holiday kitchen a crime scene waiting to happen? Here’s what ELSE you need to know:
- Defrosting your turkey at room temperature. According to the Partnership for Food Safety Education, about 50% of people do this. The problem is - your bird can become a haven for E. coli if you do. By the time the inside has thawed, the outer parts will have spent more than TWO HOURS at room temperature! That’s long enough for dangerous amounts of bacteria to accumulate, and to form toxins that’ll survive even several hours of cooking.
- Cooking your stuffing INSIDE the turkey. Stuffing cooked this way rarely reaches the recommended safe temperature, which is 165 degrees. So again, you have a bacteria breeding ground on your hands. You want to cook your stuffing in a separate pan. When adding onions, carrots, apples and other fruits and veggies to your stuffing, wash them BEFORE you cut them. Your knife can pick up bacteria from the skin and transfer it to the flesh as it passes through.
- Left out leftovers. You’ve safely prepared and served your delicious meal. The dishes have been cleared, the coffee’s been made, and post-dinner conversation is in full swing. By the time you start cleaning up, the food’s been sitting out - for three hours. According to food safety experts, after the first two hours, bacteria start multiplying at an exponential rate. So, if you want to enjoy leftovers for a few days, make sure you get everything stored, sealed and in the fridge soon after the meal is finished.