How To Keep Your Thanksgiving Dinner From Making You Sick< < Back to
Thanksgiving – a lovely day at the end of November to take a pause and give thanks for the good things in our lives. It’s also a day to spend with friends and family and celebrate over a large meal.
Belly aches and trips to the ER are not the kind of memories you’ll want to make, so Ohio University’s Environmental Health Coordinator Chad Keller gives tips on how to properly prepare and store your Thanksgiving meal.
Don’t clean the bird
Keller says that it is actually more harmful to clean the bird before you cook it than to leave it as is. The logic is when you begin to wash the raw bird, you are actually splashing the bacteria that cover the bird all over the sink, counter and faucet. Unless you disinfect all the surrounding surfaces after you are finished washing the bird, you have just spread bacteria that could put you at risk for catching a foodborne illness.
No three second rule
We know the temptation is real, but don’t do it. That’s right, if it touches the ground, it needs to be thrown away.
If you’re deep frying, do it the right way
If you are deep frying your turkey, make sure to follow instructions carefully. Don't overfill the cooking pot with oil or have a partially thawed bird, which can cause oil to splash out of the container. Since you are cooking over an open flame, even the smallest amount of oil could create a fire. These units tip over easily so make sure the surface is flat and always fry your turkey outside!
Wash your hands!
Always wash your hands before and after handling food and keep your kitchen, dishes and utensils clean also. Always serve food on clean plates – not those previously holding raw meat and poultry. Otherwise, bacteria, which may have been present in raw meat juices, can cross contaminate the food to be served.
If you are cooking foods ahead of time for your party be sure to cook foods thoroughly to safe minimum internal temperatures.
• Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145° F as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. For reasons of personal preference, consumers may choose to cook meat to higher temperatures.
• Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160° F as measured with a food thermometer.
• Cook all poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165° F as measured with a food thermometer.
Use Shallow Containers
Divide cooked foods into shallow containers to store in the refrigerator or freezer until serving. This encourages rapid, even cooling. Reheat hot foods to 165° F. Arrange and serve food on several small platters rather than one large platter. Keep the rest of the food hot in the oven (set at 200-250° F) or cold in the refrigerator until serving time.
Replace empty platters rather than adding fresh food to a dish that already had food in it. Many people’s hands may have been taking food from the dish, which has also been sitting out at room temperature.
Use the two-hour rule
Bacteria are everywhere but a few types especially like to crash parties. Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens and Listeria monocytogenes frequent people’s hands and steam tables. And unlike microorganisms that cause food to spoil, harmful or pathogenic bacteria cannot be smelled or tasted. Prevention is safe food handling.
Foods should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Keep track of how long foods have been sitting on the buffet table and discard anything there for more than two hours.
Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold
Hot foods should be held at 135° F or warmer. On the buffet table you can keep hot foods hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays. Cold foods should be held at 40° F or colder. Keep foods cold by nesting dishes on bowls of ice. Otherwise, use small serving trays and replace them.
If you find yourself not feeling so well and suspect food poisoning may be the cause, contact a health professional and describe the symptoms.