Courtesy of Aspirus
Food is a big part of how we celebrate the holidays. But you don’t want spoiled food to spoil the fun. So, remember to add a dash of safety with the foods you whip up.
Along with social distancing, masking and other measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, health experts advise that safe food handling is also important. Here are some ways you can reduce the spread of foodborne illnesses:
Keep it clean. To help keep bacteria from spreading, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Remember to wash hands before, during and after preparing food, especially when moving between tasks, such as handling raw meat and cutting raw vegetables.
“Clean kitchen surfaces, cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot, soapy water,” said Jennifer Hanlon, RDN, CD, Director of Food & Nutrition Services for Aspirus Riverview Hospital in Wisconsin Rapids. “Consider having two cutting boards for your kitchen: one for raw meats and another for raw foods, like vegetables. Also, avoid rinsing your turkey or other meat before cooking it. Doing so may spread bacteria to your sink. And don’t forget about your dish cloths. It is important to clean them often in the hot cycle of the washing machine.”
Thaw your bird safely. Never defrost a turkey or other frozen meats at room temperature. Meats can be safely thawed in the fridge, in the microwave, or submerged in cold water that is changed every 30 minutes. When thawing in the fridge, place it on the bottom shelf in a pan, so its juices won’t drip on other foods. Plan ahead: allow approximately 24 hours of thawing time for each 4 to 5 pounds in a refrigerator set at 40 degrees or below.
Use a food thermometer. This is the only surefire way to verify food is cooked long enough to kill harmful bacteria:
- 145 degrees for red meats like beef or lamb
- 160 degrees for ground meats
- 165 degrees for poultry.
Handle leftovers with care. Harmful bacteria grow well between 40 degrees and 140 degrees. Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of cooking or holding it hot at 140 degrees or above. Discard perishable foods that have been left at room temperature for more than two hours.
“It is important to cool food rapidly,” said Hanlon. “This can be achieved by dividing large amounts of food into shallow containers and placing in the refrigerator. Reheat any leftovers to165 degrees before serving again. And plan to use all leftovers you don’t freeze within three to four days.”