As we enter the holiday season, spending time with family and friends is usually at the forefront of our minds. Holiday cooking and baking is a mainstay, and main courses such as turkey (or better, prime rib!) are holiday favorites for many. While these dishes might be the star attraction, proper food safety practices are equally important.
Don’t Cross Contaminate!
• Thoroughly clean and sanitize any cutting boards, counters or tables that have come in contact with raw meat products before using that surface to prepare something else. This is one of the most common ways to spread germs like Salmonella or E. Coli. For example, never cut vegetables on the same surface you just touched with a raw turkey unless it has been properly cleaned and sanitized.
• Never slice a cooked roast or turkey on the same cutting board you just had raw meat on. Cooking helps kill unwanted, illness-causing microorganisms, but if you place an already cooked item onto a dirty, contaminated cutting board then the cooked product becomes contaminated again!
• Diluted bleach is an excellent way to ensure proper sanitization of surfaces and utensils. Wash major food residues off of your knives, cutting board or counter before cleaning. Mix 1 tablespoon of bleach into a gallon of water, stir and pour into a spray bottle. This creates a solution strong enough to sanitize food contact surfaces without being harmful to humans. Make sure to wipe everything down with a clean, dry cloth afterwards.
Cook Your Food Properly!
• Another leading cause of food-borne illness, especially in meat, is insufficient internal temperatures. A meat thermometer is a very simple and inexpensive tool everyone should have in their kitchen to ensure:
1) that you and your families are safe when consuming their meals
2) to make sure you don’t overcook any meats and make them too dry or tough!
• Intact beef products (roasts and steaks) are safe to consume at 145°F internal which is a Medium degree of doneness. Non-intact products such as ground beef, and tenderized steaks (cube steak) should always be cooked to 160°F or Well Done to ensure any dangerous microorganisms are eliminated.
• Finally, all poultry products like turkey and chicken should always be cooked to 165°F. Always probe your thermometer in the thickest part of the meat to get an accurate temperature reading!
Store Your Food Properly!
• Many of us put in a lot of effort to prepare and cook food safely, but it could all be in vain if you do not store your foods properly in the fridge. The general rule we follow is called the “Temperature Danger Zone” of 40°F to 140°F, for no more than 4 hours. Most microorganisms grow fastest in this range of temperatures, so try and minimize time spent in the Temperature Danger Zone.
• If you think your food may have spent too long in the Temperature Danger Zone, simply reheat to 165°F internal temperature to kill any harmful germs.
• The best way to stay out of the Temperature Danger Zone is to always immediately refrigerate foods that you are done eating. Don’t leave it out too long and always properly reheat before eating leftovers.
The holiday seasons are about spending time with family; do not let food poisoning ruin your good time. So, remember, don’t cross contaminate, cook your food and store it properly! If you follow these tips, then you should be set to serve a delicious and SAFE Thanksgiving dinner.
Remember: turkey is good, but CERTIFIED HEREFORD BEEF® is best!