Don’t ruin Christmas: Holiday food safety tips

Avoid putting stuffing in your turkey: the stuffing might not reach a hot enough temperature to kill dangerous bacteria. (file photo/Brian Teutsch)
Avoid putting stuffing in your turkey: the stuffing might not reach a hot enough temperature to kill dangerous bacteria. (file photo/Brian Teutsch)

Cooking a Christmas ham or turkey? The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recommends to cooks of all ages and skills to “go beyond the basics this holiday season” and prepare classic dishes safely.

Here’s some food safety tips from VDACS to keep everyone in the family healthy:

The basics

  • Wash your hands: it stops the spread of bacteria.
  • Don’t wash your turkey: it’s “the easiest way to spread bacteria all over your kitchen.”
  • Cook on clean surfaces with clean utensils.
  • Keep meats separate from other food.
  • Don’t contaminate plates or utensils with raw meat juices.
  • Keep refrigerated foods chilled, and refrigerate leftovers within two hours.

Beyond the basics

  • Avoid putting stuffing in your turkey: the stuffing might not reach a hot enough temperature to kill dangerous bacteria.
  • Cook your stuffing in a separate bowl: it’s safer.
  • Use a food thermometer: cook turkey to an internal temperature of 165º Fahrenheit and ham to at least 145º Fahrenheit.
  • If you stuff your turkey, check your stuffing’s internal temperature: it must cook to at least 165º F.
  • Use a slow cooker: the combination of heat and cooking time destroys dangerous bacteria.
  • Don’t leave food sitting on the table: follow a two-hour rule. Don’t leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours.

Food Safety, a federal government website, has tables for safe internal cooking temperatures and times.

Think you or a loved one have been exposed to a foodborne illness? Click here for information on food poisoning.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.