WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- The Westchester County Health Department offers tips for safe holiday cooking to help avoid food borne illnesses.
“When you’re rushing to get a big holiday meal on the table, it’s easy to make a mistake or take a shortcut that could cause your guests to become ill,” said Dr. Sherlita Amler, commissioner of health. “Follow our safe food-handling and cooking tips so that your guests will remember their visit and the meal for all the right reasons.”
Frequent hand washing by the chef is essential to safe food handling, said Peter DeLucia, assistant commissioner of public health protection. “Follow these six tips and you’ll be sure to serve a safe and healthy holiday meal.”
- Thaw: Never defrost a turkey by leaving it out at room temperature. Frozen turkeys must be thawed in the refrigerator. Allow 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds.
- Separate and prepare: Bacteria on raw poultry can contaminate your hands, utensils and work surfaces as you prepare the turkey. Use a separate cutting board for all raw meat and poultry preparation.
- Stuff: To avoid undercooked stuffing that can cause a food-borne illness, bake stuffing separately in a shallow pan, where it can quickly reach 165 degrees. Many food-borne outbreaks have been caused by stuffed, roasted turkey.
- Cook: Turkeys should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees. How long it will take depends on oven temperature, temperature fluctuation and turkey weight. The safest way to be sure the bird is fully cooked is to use a 0 to 220 degree probe thermometer to check the turkey’s internal temperature by inserting the probe thermometer deep into the turkey’s thigh.
- Properly cool leftovers: Improper cooling practices are one of the most frequent causes of food borne illness. Leftover turkey, stuffing and other items should be refrigerated within two hours from the time you remove the turkey from the oven.
- Reheat: Leftovers, including turkey meat, stuffing and stock should be reheated to at least 165 degrees before serving.
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