Enjoy Safe Thanksgiving Meal Says LSU AgCenter Nutritionist

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  10/24/2006 12:50:24 AM

News You Can Use For 10/24/2003

As American families and friends gather to celebrate Thanksgiving, cooks head to the kitchen to prepare bountiful meals. One item not on the grocery list, but that should be in the kitchen, is food safety, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

By following four basic food safety steps, you can prepare a delicious and safe Thanksgiving meal.

"In fact, it’s so simple to follow safe food handling practices that children can help," Reames says.

The LSU AgCenter nutritionist identifies four simple food safety steps that children and adults can follow to make sure a great holiday meal is also safe to eat. The steps are Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill.

• Clean. Make hand washing a frequent activity when in the kitchen.Everyone who will help prepare the meal needs to begin with clean hands. Wash hands after touching raw meat or poultry for 20 seconds in hot, soapy water.

After handwashing, children can help by gathering cooking pans and utensils and bringing food from the refrigerator to the counter. At this time, be sure that utensils, plates, work surfaces, etc., have been cleaned thoroughly.

• Separate. Home food safety is just as important as the precautions taken by manufacturers and retailers before the food reaches the home. Keep raw foods separate from ready-to-eat foods and foods that will not be cooked, such as salad fixings and bread, to avoid cross-contamination.

While children may want to help prepare a vegetable salad or butter the rolls, be sure those foods are kept away from the raw turkey. Raw meat and poultry products may contain harmful bacteria, so it is important that the juices from raw meat and poultry products do not come into contact with food that will be consumed without cooking. Also, never place cooked food on an unwashed plate that previously held raw meat or poultry.

• Cook. Using a food thermometer could make your turkey taste better because you won’t overcook your turkey trying to make it safe. A food thermometer is the only way to make sure that turkey has reached a high enough temperature to destroy harmful bacteria.

Using a food thermometer is easy enough that children can help. Be sure to get the turkey to a safe position on the stovetop or in the oven so that nobody is burned from the hot cooking pan or juices. Insert the food thermometer into the turkey and children can read the temperature.

Follow these temperatures to ensure a safe turkey: whole turkey should to reach 180 F between the breast and the innermost part of the thigh; turkey breast should to reach 170 F in the thickest part of the breast; turkey thighs and wings should reach 180 F in the thickest part of the meat; and stuffing, cooked alone or in the bird, should reach 165 F in its center.

If you choose to stuff a turkey, you must use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey and the stuffing. The temperature of the turkey must reach 180 F in the innermost part of the thigh, and the center of the stuffing must reach 165 F. If the stuffing has not reached 165 F, continue cooking the turkey until it does.

• Chill. To keep foodborne bacteria from growing, refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours. Cut turkey into smaller pieces. Slice the breast meat. Wings and legs may be left whole. Place turkey into shallow containers for storing in the refrigerator. Children can help by clearing the table and placing foods into shallow containers for the refrigerator or freezer. Reheat leftovers to a hot and steamy 165 F.

For additional information about holiday food safety, contact the Extension agent in your parish. In addition, log on to the Family and Consumer Sciences section under the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service at the LSU AgCenter Web site: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/.

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Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3329, or breames@agcenter.lsu.edu

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