Holiday Food Safety

— Written By Marilyn Wells and last updated by Cathy Sprinkle

The holiday season is almost here! Not only is delicious food important for our holiday feasts, but food safety should be tops on our list. Many of our holiday foods may be poultry or raw eggs, which contain salmonella that causes food borne illness. By safely thawing poultry and carefully handling raw eggs, you can keep food safe.  Turkeys and chickens must be kept at 40 degrees or below once it is removed from the freezer. Place on a baking pan to catch any juice while thawing to prevent cross contamination of other foods. Large turkeys may take up to 6 days to thaw safely in the refrigerator. A thawed turkey will keep for 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator.  Another safe method to thaw a turkey or chicken is to place the wrapped bird in a large leak proof bag. Submerge the bag in a deep container half filled with cold tap water. Add enough water to cover the bird. Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Usually it takes 30 minutes per pound to thaw the turkey so it may take up to 12 hours to completely thaw with this lengthy process. This is a time consuming method and must be cooked when thawed.  The third method of safe thawing is in the microwave. While this method is safe, it is the least desirable due to the possible effect on the quality of the meat. Cook immediately after defrosting.  When purchasing, buy 1 pound of meat per person to be served.  For safety reasons, always wash hands, sink, and any other areas that may have come in contact with raw meat and eggs.  Use a meat thermometer to measure inside temperature of the breast and thigh. Cook until it reaches 165 degrees. Let the bird sit for 10 minutes before carving.  Refrigerate all leftovers within 2 hours. Use gravy, turkey and dressing within 3-4 days for food safety. Frozen leftovers should be used within 6 months.