Tips For Handling Holiday Food Safely


Listed below are food safety tips that should help keep your holiday healthy.

Safe Shopping

  • Never choose torn or leaking packages.
  • Don’t buy foods past the “sell-by” or expiration dates.
  • Put raw meat and poultry into a plastic bag so that meat juices won’t cross-contaminate cooked foods or raw vegetables or fruit.
  • Place refrigerated or frozen items in the shopping cart last, right before heading for the checkout counter.
  • Drive immediately home from the grocery store.

Safe Storage Of Foods – Keep It Safe; Refrigerate

  • Unload perishable foods from the car first and immediately refrigerate them. Place securely wrapped packages of raw meat, poultry or fish in the meat drawer or coldest section of your refrigerator.
  • Check the temperature of your unit with an appliance thermometer. To slow bacterial growth, the refrigerator should be at 41 degrees and the freezer at zero degrees.
  • Cook or freeze fresh poultry, fish, ground meats and variety meats within two days; cook or freeze other beef, veal, lamb or pork within three to five days.

Safe Food Preparation – Keep Everything Clean!

  • Wash hands before and after handling raw meat and poultry.
  • Sanitize cutting boards often in a solution of one teaspoon chlorine bleach in one gallon of water. Wash kitchen towels and cloths in hot water in a washing machine. Change cloths and towels between duties.
  • Don’t cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish and their juices away from other food. After cutting raw meats, wash hands, the cutting board, knife and countertops with hot, soapy water.
  • Marinate meat and poultry in a covered dish in the refrigerator.
  • Prepare stuffing safely. Mix stuffing before filling the turkey. If the ingredients are prepared ahead of time, refrigerate them until the meat or poultry is ready to be stuffed.

Thaw Food Safely

Refrigerator: Allows slow, safe thawing. Make sure thawing juices do not drip on other foods.

Cold Water: Thaw under cold running water and cook immediately.

Microwave: Cook meat and poultry immediately after microwave thawing.

Safe Cooking

Cook your meats until they reach the proper internal cooking temperature. (Check temperatures with a stem cooking thermometer.)

The minimum internal temperature for cooking a whole turkey, including the center of the stuffing, is 165 degrees.

Minimum internal cooking temperatures for other holiday meats are:

  • Ground Meats – 155 F
  • Ground Poultry – 165 F
  • Beef, Veal and Lamb Steaks and Roasts – 145 F
  • Pork Chops and Pork Products – 145 F
  • Whole Poultry – 165 F

Serving Food Safely

Never leave food out for more than two hours. Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Bacteria that cause foodborne illness grow rapidly at room temperature.

When serving food at a buffet, keep hot food over a heat source and keep cold food on ice. Keep platters of food refrigerated until it is time to serve or heat them.

Handling Leftovers Safely

  • Divide foods into shallow containers for rapid cooling. Put food directly in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Remove turkey from the bone and refrigerate.
  • Refrigerate stuffing and turkey separately.
  • Use cooked leftovers from refrigerator within four days.

Refreezing Food

Meat and poultry defrosted in the refrigerator may be refrozen before or after cooking. If thawed by other methods, cook before refreezing.

Reheating Food

Quickly reheat leftovers thoroughly to 165 F or above. Reheating smaller portions of a large cut of meat or poultry will ensure a thorough and more uniform reheat.


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