A Thanksgiving meal can be delicious but it can also make you sick if there is improper preparation of the turkey or mishandling of leftovers.
Specialists in the food protection program that is part of the Sacramento County Environmental Management Department are experts in making sure restaurants are clean through careful on-site inspections.
The food inspectors have provided home cooks with tips to follow to have the same food handling present in the cleanest county restaurants.
“Safely handling food when preparing and cooking is important – as is correctly storing leftovers, frequent hand-washing and thoroughly cleaning surfaces that come into contact with raw food,” said Kelly McCoy, the county’s Environmental Health Division deputy chief.
Tips from the county safe food experts on thawing, preparation, stuffing, cooking and leftovers:
▪ Thawing turkeys should be kept at a cool enough temperature in the refrigerator. The temperature range where foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly is between 41 degrees and 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Provide enough time to thaw your turkey safely in the refrigerator.
▪ Bacteria on a raw bird can contaminate hands, utensils and work surfaces. For safe preparation after working with raw poultry, thoroughly wash utensils, work surfaces and hands with soap and warm water before touching other foods.
▪ For safety reasons and to have a uniformly cooked turkey, cook the stuffing in a casserole dish. However, if you must stuff, do so just before cooking, and use a food thermometer to make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees.
▪ For safe cooking, set the oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees. The center of the stuffing and meaty portion of the breast, thigh and wing joint must reach 165 degrees at a minimum. After cooking, let the turkey stand 20 minutes. Then remove all stuffing from the cavity and carve.
▪ Don’t leave perishable foods unrefrigerated for more than two hours.
▪ Cooked turkey and gravy can be kept for three or four days in the refrigerator.