Thanksgiving Day is not even 24 hours away and it is officially crunch time for chefs everywhere.
While cooks are busy making sure that the turkey is juicy and the rolls are golden-brown by the time guests arrive, the Georgia Department of Community Health has some advice for serving a safe Thanksgiving dinner.
First and foremost, health officials say that a turkey should be thawed one of three ways — in the refrigerator, in cold water or in a microwave. Room temperature thawing isn’t advised because it can increase the risk of bacteria growth, the group says.
During the preparation of the meal, hands should be washed with soap and warm, running water for at least 20 seconds before and after touching raw poultry. Between encountering raw and cooked foods, counter tops and cutting boards should be sanitized using a
solution made from one tablespoon of chlorine bleach per one gallon of water.
To reduce the chances of cross-contamination, the spread of bacteria from one food to another, the health department urges cooks to use separate cutting boards, dishes and utensils for raw and cooked foods. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that food cross-contamination is associated with more than 250 different diseases with symptoms such as vomiting, abdominal cramps, fever and diarrhea. More serious cases can even be life-threatening.
In order to ensure the safety of those who consume it, a turkey should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, says the health department.
If the turkey is filled with stuffing, the temperature throughout the stuffing should also be at least 165 degrees. For the best reading, the department recommends that the bird’s temperature should be checked in the innermost part of the thigh or wing or the thickest part of the breast and the stuffing.
After guests have gotten their fill of the holiday meal, department officials say that leftovers should be divided into shallow containers to allow the contents to cool quickly. According to health officials, refrigerated leftovers are safe to eat for three to four days after the initial meal.