No holiday says “food-borne illnesses” like Thanksgiving.
To assure that you feel truly thankful on the morning after, it’s wise to take some simple precautions, beginning with your expedition to the grocery store.
According to health professionals, all raw foods—meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, produce—should be kept separate from all other food. And this separation should begin in the grocery cart.
Before you begin using or preparing these products, make sure that all of your cutting boards, towels, knives and other cooking tools are clean. There is some debate over whether wood or plastic cutting boards are safer, but in either case, cleanliness is the key.
Also be aware that kitchen towels and sponges are easily cross contaminated. So when it comes to preparing a big meal with multiple dishes and ingredients, it’s best to restrict each towel and each sponge to a single use.
Here’s a tip that seems obviously wrong… until you think about it: Do not wash raw poultry. Its bacteria is killed during the cooking process, and by washing it before cooking, you actually increase the risk of spreading bacteria to other food.
When cooking the holiday bird, do not depend on your eyes or your mouth to determine whether it’s fully cooked. Use a meat thermometer, and follow the cooking directions.
When the meal is over, do not wait to refrigerate the leftovers—even if some of it is still warm. According to experts, it does no harm (other than making your refrigerator work a little harder), and it inhibits bacteria growth. A good safety rule: No perishable food should be left out more than two hours.
And finally, when thawing frozen leftovers, use the refrigerator; do not let them sit out at room temperature. Leftover sauces, gravies and soups should be brought to a boil when reheating.
Follow these tips, and you’ll have not only a great meal, but many days of pleasant noshing after Thanksgiving.