Sometimes being in a hurry to make a lot of food for a lot of people results in some forgetfulness and negotiation of basic food handling rules. The result? Cross-contamination.
Cross-contamination often results in food poisoning. Ick.
If you don't want to spend your holidays with your head stuck in the toilet, remember to follow basic rules of food preparation.
MEAT and POULTRY
- Buy "fresh" poultry as late as possible. Store them in the fridge and cook within 48 hours.
- Defrost frozen turkeys in the fridge. DO NOT defrost turkeys on the counter or in a lukewarm bath.
- DO NOT wash your turkey under the kitchen faucet. Bacteria splash from the raw meat and poultry to counter-tops, cutting boards, and utensils. Proper cooking will kill any bacteria, so it doesn't need to be washed.
- Use a meat thermometer to make sure meats are cooked all the way through.
- Wash your hands BEFORE and AFTER handling food.
- Use separate cutting boards, knives, etc., for different meats and produce.
- Germs that cause food poisoning can also linger on surfaces for days. Make sure to use a CLEAN rag and antibacterial cleaner to wipe down surfaces tainted by raw meat and poultry.
- Immediately clean surfaces and utensils after using them.
- Don't leave leftovers sitting on the counter or table. Food poisoning producing bacteria grow quickly so eat and refrigerate.
- Store food properly. Keep meat away from produce. Try to adios leftovers within 48 hours of cooking them.
- By the way, there is an old wives tale that leftovers needs to "cool" before it can be refrigerated. FALSE. You should cool food before freezing so you don't get ice crystals and freezer burn but there is no need to let that leftover turkey "cool" for three hours before popping it in the fridge (unless, of course, your diet of choice is a nice stomach flu).
- Use different colored sponges or dishcloths for wiping surfaces and washing up.
- If you have accidentally used the wrong sponge or cloth (or if you want to make sure germs are gone) place rags/sponges in the microwave for a couple of minutes.
When you are in your kitchen whipping up some holiday food magic, don't forget that cleanliness is next to godliness (I don't actually believe this but you see where I'm going...).