Don't forget food safety for Thanksgiving

November 20, 2013 

Having a happy Thanksgiving also means having a safe Thanksgiving. That means paying attention to the foods you serve, from purchase on through preparation, serving and storing leftovers.

Turkey gets a lot of attention and rightly so. It’s big and often daunting to cooks, says Phyllis Kramer, one of 50 experts answering calls to the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line. “And because there is so much information, it’s understandable people get confused and overwhelmed.”

To help clear up some confusion, here are some of Kramer’s top safety issues:

Basic thaw: “Expect every 4 pounds to take 24 hours at 40 degrees in your refrigerator. ... Thawing in the refrigerator is best.” Set the bird in its wrapper on a tray so poultry juices don’t drip on other foods.

Chill it: “A thawed bird will be fine in the refrigerator for two days.”

Faster thaw: “If you have to speed up thawing, place the bird breast side down in a sink full of cold water. Leave it in the wrapper, but every 30 minutes change the water.”

Combo thaw: An 18-pound bird needs 9 hours in cold water. “You don’t have to do 9 hours all at once. Do it for 2 or 3 hours then put it back in the refrigerator.”

Think clean: “When you open the package, there will be some raw bird juices. Make sure you wipe off counters.” Use hot, soapy water.

Think sturdy: Use a sturdy roasting pan. For heavy turkeys (15-20 pounds), stabilize roasting pan by setting on a larger baking pan.

Use a meat thermometer: “A thermometer is your best friend.” Stuffing should register 165 degrees, breast 170, thighs 180, says Kramer. (The USDA recommends 165 for both stuffing and the bird).

Store it: Do not let roasted bird sit out for more than 2 hours. “Slice it off the bone and store it” in the refrigerator.

Judy Hevrdejs, Chicago Tribune

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