Safely Prepare Your Holiday Meal
Food safety is especially important as you prepare a holiday meal. Within the last couple of years, CDC has investigated outbreaks of foodborne illness that were caused by bacteria in jalapeños, spinach, peanut butter, frozen pizza, frozen pot pies, and frozen beef patties. Many consumers are now more aware of the ongoing importance of food safety.
CDC is a food safety partner with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which is responsible for the safety of meat and poultry. The FSIS has assembled preparation tips intended to serve as safety reminders to those who are already familiar with meat and poultry preparation safety and as guidelines for the first-time chef.
Holiday Food Safety Podcast
This podcast discusses important steps you can take to make sure food safety is a regular ingredient in preparing foods this holiday season. Created: 11/14/2008 by National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-borne, and Enteric Diseases (NCZVED). Date Released: 11/17/2008. Series Name: CDC Featured Podcasts.
Turkey Basics: Safely Thaw, Prepare, Stuff, and Cook
When preparing a turkey, be aware of the four main safety issues: thawing, preparing, stuffing, and cooking to adequate temperature.
Thawing turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature. The “danger zone” is between 40 and 140°F — the temperature range where foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly. While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely, but as soon as it begins to thaw, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow again, if it is in the “danger zone.”
Bacteria present on raw poultry can contaminate your hands, utensils, and work surfaces as you prepare the turkey. If these areas are not cleaned thoroughly before working with other foods, bacteria from the raw poultry can then be transferred to other foods. After working with raw poultry, always wash your hands, utensils, and work surfaces before they touch other foods.
For optimal safety and uniform doneness, cook the stuffing outside the turkey in a casserole dish. However, if you place stuffing inside the turkey, do so just before cooking, and use a food thermometer. Make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165°F, possibly resulting in foodborne illness. Follow the FSIS’ steps to safely prepare, cook, remove, and refrigerate stuffing; Spanish language instructions are available.
Set the oven temperature no lower than 325°F and be sure the turkey is completely thawed. Place turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep. Check the internal temperature at the center of the stuffing and meaty portion of the breast, thigh, and wing joint using a food thermometer. Cooking times will vary. The food thermometer must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat.
Following these cooking guidelines can help you prepare a safe holiday dinner that everyone will enjoy.
- Holiday Food Safety [PODCAST – 3:29 minutes]
- Poultry Preparation, USDA, Food Safety and Inspection Service
- Let’s Talk Turkey: A Consumer Guide to Safely Roasting a Turkey, USDA, Food Safety and Inspection Service
- Turkey Basics: Handling Cooked Dinners & Leftovers, USDA, Food Safety and Inspection Service
- Turkey Basics: Safe Cooking, USDA, Food Safety and Inspection Service (Spanish language Turkey Basics are available)
- CDC Foodborne Illness
- CDC Food Safety