As American traditional holidays go, we’re hard pressed to find one that centers more on food than Thanksgiving. Ask just about any school-aged child and they will tell you the first thing that pops in their head is Turkey. After that, they’ll probably rattle off a list of other equally yummy main and side dishes. It is extremely important though to make sure that all the food that is served is safe for consumption (and I’m not trying to joke about anybody’s cooking abilities).
- 1) It starts at the store-In the rush to get to the fun part of prepping and cooking it’s easy to inadvertently pick up a package of meat or canned good that is or almost is expired. If you’re doing your shopping a week or two ahead of time, double check the “best by” date. It’s okay if the meat item is close but be sure to get it home and put it in the freezer if you’re not going to use it right away.
- 2) Bringing home the groceries. It’s easy to forget that you bought that dozen eggs or that tub of sour cream amongst your boxed goods after you dropped the kids off for soccer practice and then go back and watch them finish. You don’t want to spoil the special meal with spoiled foods so try to get those refrigerated items home and put away without a bunch of stops.
- 3) Wash your hands and tools. Switching from stuffing the turkey to chopping vegetables is an open invitation to salmonella or the like. So be sure to wash hands each time you touch meat and go to something else. And for goodness sake, don’t just wipe them on the towel you use to sop up the defrosted turkey juices!
- 4) Ice your dips. Many of us like to have some veggies or chips and dip before the main meal to stave off hunger pangs. So be sure to put those dips in plastic or ceramic bowls that can sit in another bowl of ice to keep from spoiling. If you don’t have that many bowls, use a brownie pan with ice. Set the bowl in and then layer ice around it.
- 5) Have extra hot mitts and pads around. There’s nothing worse than needing to get two things out of the oven quickly and not being able to hand someone something when the counters are full. If you have a couple extra mitts around or hot pads you can have aunt Susie help you out.
- As 6) Keep handles of pots and pans turned inward over the stove. Little ones often want to see what’s cooking and if you keep the handles turned inward, where they’re harder to reach, you can save them from accidentally burning themselves. Even curious doggies have been known to tip a skillet or pot!
- 7) Use timers. With all the fun and friends being around it’s easy to forget those eggs being boiled or that it’s time to baste the turkey. While the turkey may just turn out a bit dry, the eggs can boil dry or explode which could cause a fire or nasty burn. Best to set a timer even if it’s just a few minutes since that card game or Wii Tennis Tournament might be more engrossing than you thought.
- 8) Know your guests. Food allergies are serious things that go beyond finicky eaters. Make sure if you have someone over with whom you are not that familiar, be sure to ask if they have any allergies or sensitivities. More than likely they would’ve told you already, but better safe than sorry.
- 9) Watch your temps. This is always the big one we hear. The undercooked poultry or roast. Make sure you use a meat thermometer and push it into the thickest part of the meat. For a turkey, according to Butterball.com “Your turkey is done when temperature is 180Ã?Â° F in thigh and 165Ã?Â° F in breast or stuffing.” As well as let it stand for 15 minutes before carving. The folks that visit may not remember your turkey being a bit overdone, but they will remember if they get sick.
- 10) Wrap leftovers up well to store. Be sure to wrap things tightly and put them away as soon as the main feasting is done. You no longer have to leave things out to “cool down” first. RealSimple.com notes that Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of cooking. And there’s no need to wait for piping-hot foods to cool down before storing themÃ¢Â?Â?modern refrigerators can handle the heat.
- 11) Empty the trash after the dishes are done. The cute little dog who was such an angel all dinner long suddenly disappears after everyone is seated watching “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Those turkey bones and leftovers can prove hazardous to any pet’s health, so it’s best just to do this one extra chore before settling in for the night.
Taking these extra steps will help ensure that you and your loved ones have a safe and happy holiday feast.