Careful food preparation is one of the biggest keys to a successful holiday, as poultry – like the star of the show, turkey – can lead to foodborne illness if undercooked.
Follow these four steps to prevent food poisoning and avoid a holiday visit to the ER or urgent care.
- A space for everything, and everything in its space: Yes, even your Thanksgiving turkey (and all meat and seafood) needs to social distance from the rest of the groceries, wherever they happen to be. Juices from meat can contaminate other foods – so keep them separated using sealed freezer bags or plastic containers. Keep the eggs in the carton in the fridge until you need them.
- D’oh! Don’t lick the spoon. Baking holiday cookies? Wait until they’re crisp and cooling on the rack before sampling. Cookie dough and other batter that contains flour and eggs may also contain Salmonella, E. coli, and other harmful bacteria. So, make certain the kids resist that urge to lick the spoon or spatula (and that the big kids do the same). For dishes and drinks that call for raw eggs – use pasteurized.
- Do the turkey trot: Is the Thanksgiving bird giving you the cold shoulder? Thaw it out in the refrigerator or the microwave – but never on the kitchen counter (bacteria can grow if the turkey is kept on the counter at room temp for more than 2 hours). Then, cook thoroughly. Timing will depend on the weight of the turkey, and a meat thermometer should be used to confirm a safe, internal temperature of 165°F at the thickest point of the breast, thigh, and innermost part of the wing.
Consider cooking your stuffing in a separate casserole dish instead of inside the bird. This way, you can be certain it is cooked throughout. Also make sure your stuffing has reached an internal temp of 165°F.
- Make a clean getaway: Careful food preparation during the holidays – and any time of the year – hinges on the cleanliness of the chef and their tools. So, wash with soap and warm water before, during, and after prepping dishes and courses. And wash your hands whenever touching anything outside of the kitchen. One caveat: you should not wash or rinse the turkey or poultry in the sink, as juices from the meat can contaminate nearby food and surfaces.
Remember also to chill food promptly after serving. Follow the two-hour guideline mentioned above, and keep leftovers refrigerated until you must heed the call of a turkey sandwich.
Quality First Urgent Care wishes you the happiest of Thanksgivings free of foodborne illnesses altogether. That being said, our team of emergency medical professionals will be on call if you need anything at all. Have a happy holiday season.