Don’t ruin Christmas: Holiday food safety tips

File photo
File photo

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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