Posts Tagged ‘Food safety’

T-Minus One Day and Counting … Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock

Wednesday, November 24, 2010
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 OK, we’re at T-minus one day and counting.

The menu is planned, the shopping is done and the big bird is thawing. There’s really not much left to worry about at this point. Except trying not to kill your guests.

Food poisoning is serious business and reported cases often spike around the holidays. Here’s what you can do to avoid spending your holiday laid up in bed – either yours or one at the hospital …

  1. Wash your hands often, especially in between handling foods that are dry and wet. 
  2. Before preparing food, carefully clean counters, cutting boards and utensils with hot soapy water. Repeat cleaning in between recipes, especially if you have raw meat or leafy greens on the cutting board, both of which can carry salmonella.
  3. Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool running water and use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.
  4. If you purchased a turkey fresh and not frozen, refrigerate it immediately. For a frozen turkey, allow lots of time for it to thaw – about 2 hours of thaw time per five pounds of turkey. Thaw a turkey a high walled pan placed in the refrigerator, and do not let the water touch any other food.
  5. It is safest not to stuff a turkey, but rather put herbs inside the cavity to season it. If you must stuff, use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the stuffing which must reach 165° F. Stuffings with meat or shellfish (oyster) ingredients are risky. Always cook these on the stove top or in the oven, and not in the turkey.
  6. A significant risk of food poisoning comes from undercooking the turkey. You can’t tell it’s done by how it looks! While recipes give you hints about testing for “doneness,” such as a golden brown color or seeing juices run clear, these may not be accurate. The only way to make sure your bird is cooked sufficiently to be safe to eat is to measure the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. It must reach 165 degrees F.
  7. It may not be in mom’s recipe, but bring gravy to a full boil before serving.
  8. Keep cold food like salads, Jell-O molds and salad dressing refrigerated until just before serving. Once dinner is over, refrigerate leftovers. If food has been sitting out for two hours or more, it may not be safe to eat.
  9. Use pasteurized eggs in homemade recipes.
  10. After eating, take the remaining meat off the bird and store in a shallow container in the refrigerator. Don’t put an entire carcass into the refrigerator — it won’t cool down quickly enough.

So how do you know if those cramps you’re feeling are innocent indigestion or something more sinister?

Food poisoning can cause fever, stomach pain, vomiting and/or diarrhea, often leading to dehydration. These signs usually appear within six, but up to 48, hours after eating or drinking a contaminated food or beverage. For the elderly, children, infants, pregnant woman and people suffering from compromised immune systems, food poisoning can be severe. When in doubt, get it checked out.

How to Cook Thanksgiving’s Guest of Honor – RIP.

Friday, November 19, 2010
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Yesterday we talked about buying your big Thanksgiving bird. Today, let’s discuss cooking that bad boy!

Here’s some advice from the venerable Old Farmer’s Almanac Everyday Recipes (and me) on how to roast it to earn raves:

  • Position your oven rack so the turkey sits in the lower third of the oven. If you’re cooking it in a bag – which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND – be sure you allow enough space above so the bag won’t touch the heating elements and burst as it inflates during cooking.
  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. This low-roasting temperature results in a juicier bird.
  • Remove the neck and giblets from the body cavity, drain any juices and rinse the bird thoroughly under cold water. Drain, blot it dry and set it aside to let it reach room temperature.
  • Stuff the turkey (if you wish) and then truss it: Take a 4- to 6-foot piece of cooking twine and tie the legs together at the ankles. Run the twine around the thighs and under the wings. Pull tightly and make a knot around the excess flesh where the turkey’s neck used to be. Trussing the turkey into a compact shape helps to ensure that it cooks evenly and makes it easier to carve.
  • Place the turkey on the oven rack in a pan deep enough to collect any juices that may run off during cooking. (You’ll want to save these to make awesome gravy later!)
  • Lightly brush the bird with melted butter or oil, then generously season with salt, pepper and your favorite herbs – either on the skin’s surface or, better yet, underneath it between skin and meat. (Just gently ply the skin away from the meet with your fingers, and slather your herbed butter mixture inside to better infuse the meat.) And don’t be stingy with the seasoning, either. Turkeys are big and their meat is dense, so they can withstand (and need) lots of flavorings.
  • Roast the turkey, basting with the pan drippings every 40 to 60 minutes. If you’re using a cooking bag, you don’t have to do this. Yet another reason to use the bag – less work, moister meat!
  • When the skin is golden brown, after approximately 1 to 2 hours, shield the breast with a tent of aluminum foil, shiny side out. To prevent over-browning.
  • Thirty minutes before the end of the roasting time, begin taking the turkey’s temperature with an instant-read meat thermometer in both the thigh and breast areas. Continue doing this in 15-minute increments until the thermometer reads at least 180 degrees in both areas.
  • Remove the bird, cover with aluminum foil and let sit for 30 minutes. This allows the juices to retreat back into the meat, making it easier to carve. (And tastier, to boot!)

Wash Those GROSS-ery Bags!

Friday, October 29, 2010
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So, do you want to be CLEAN or GREEN?

Next time to head out to the grocery store — all proud of yourself with eco-friendly resuable bags in hand — consider this bit of frightening news from a recent study. (SPOILER ALERT: Gross details below!)

During a recent test, scientists from the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University found that nearly half of the reusable grocery bags they sampled contained traces of fecal bacteria, including E coli. Eewww.

Here’s how it happens: You put fresh fruits and veggies in your bag, and germs from the surface are left behind when you remove them. Or you buy a package of raw meat and some of the juices leak out, possibly contaminating other items — and your bag.

The solution? Wash your bags after every trip. Yes, that uses more soap and water (kinda negating the eco-benefits or skipping plastic bags) but at least you’ll stay safe and healthy.