N.Y. (WETM) – Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the New York State Department of Health are reminding those who are cooking this year to familiarize themselves with the precautions they can take to prevent foodborne illness.
In order to prevent illness at your holiday meal, proper food safety is key. Here are some tips to become familiar with before you begin cooking this year.
Tip 1: Don’t wash the turkey.
Washing the turkey can cause bacteria to spread up to three feet away due to water likely splashing onto clean counters, cutting boards, sink handles and more.
It is recommended to cook the turkey to 165 degrees Fahrenheit through baking, broiling, boiling, frying or grilling. This temperature will kill any bacteria that may be present, making washing the meat unnecessary.
Tip 2: Use the refrigerator, the cold-water method or the microwave to defrost a frozen turkey.
There are three different ways that you can defrost a turkey safely. These three methods include the refrigerator, in cold water or in the microwave oven.
Thawing food in the refrigerator is the safest method, as the turkey will defrost at a consistent and safe temperature. This will take 24 hours for every five pounds of weight for a turkey. To thaw in cold water, the turkey must be submerged in its original wrapper in cold tap water that is changed every 30 minutes. Microwave defrosting is dependent on the microwave’s owner’s manual. Cold water and microwave thawing can also be used if the turkey did not entirely defrost in the refrigerator.
Tip 3: Use a meat thermometer.
The only way to ensure that a turkey is cooked is to check its internal temperature with a food thermometer.
A whole turkey should be checked in the following locations: the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing and the thickest part of the breast. The thermometer should read at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit in these places.
Tip 4: Don’t store food outside, even if it’s cold.
Storing food outside is not safe, as both wild animals and pets can get into it and either consume or contaminate it.
Additionally, plastic food containers that are left in the sun can heat up to what is known as the “danger zone” (above 40 degrees Fahrenheit), allowing bacteria to grow. The best method for keeping leftovers at a safe temperature is in a refrigerator or a cooler with ice.
Tip 5: Turkey leftovers are good in the refrigerator for up to four days.
Cut the turkey off the bone and refrigerate it as soon as possible, but within two hours of the turkey coming out of the oven. If the leftovers won’t be used right away, put them in the freezer.
Leftovers that are put in the freezer should be packed into freezer bags or airtight containers. For the best quality, these leftovers should be used within four months to ensure that the turkey doesn’t dry out or lose flavor.