As a dietitian, I of course would promote healthy eating this Thanksgiving. That includes portion control, eating a healthy breakfast and taking a walk after dinner. I've seen plenty of other experts give great advice on this very topic. One topic that hasn't been as popular is foodborne illnesses. Believe me, it's as important as healthy eating because consuming undercooked turkey or bad leftovers can ruin your entire weekend.
Here are a few suggestions I compiled with the help of The American Dietetic Association.
For more information on how to keep your Thanksgiving foodborne-illness free, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at: 1-888-MPHotline or 1-888-674-6854, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are the host this week, it will be up to you to start the cooking day out right! One out of every four Americans thaws their turkey in the sink and doing so provides an environment where both uneven thawing and transfer of bacteria can occur. For example, the outer portion of the bird can thaw out and actually reach bacteria-friendly temperatures (between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit) long before the middle parts of the bird do. To avoid this, thaw your bird either in the refrigerator at 40 degrees or lower, in the microwave on the defrost setting, or in cold water (make sure to change the water every 30 minutes). Keep in mind, a large turkey may take two to three days to thaw completely. By the way, your cooked turkey will be done when your thermometer reads 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
Never cook your stuffing in the turkey. When you cook the stuffing in the turkey, it often fails to reach an internal cooking temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If your stuffing isn't cooked fully, you'll consume raw eggs with a side of potentially undercooked turkey juice thrown in as well. Additionally, purchasing pasteurized eggs when making stuffing, egg nog, cookies and certain sauces and dressings can help ward off nasty salmonella even further. Most eggs will advertise that they are pasteurized on the front of the package. When making stuffing with oysters, it's best to cook the oysters prior to mixing them in with the rest of the ingredients.
You'll need several cutting boards for Thanksgiving Day dinner to separate out raw meat juices from other foods. This is true all year long yet many people still violate this rule. A few years ago a friend of mine used the same cutting board to dress the raw turkey and cool the dinner rolls. The raw turkey juices mixed with the rolls and several of her guests became ill. Set aside two or three cutting boards and designate ahead of time which boards will be used with which foods making sure to use one cutting board for fresh produce and bread and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
Most kitchen savvy individuals know to bring gravy to a boil before serving. This kills off harmful bacteria and provides time for the gravy to thicken. However, many forget to boil it again when re-heating. The temperature danger zone of food is between 40-140 degrees. Food left out can easily reach this zone and when it does, bacteria starts multiplying. More bacteria means a more likely chance that you'll be missing the football game after dinner. Imagine how long your gravy sits out on Thanksgiving Day! That's why it's so important to cook the gravy to 165 degrees or higher before adding it to your leftover mash potatoes the next day.
Start the clock once the platters of Thanksgiving food hit the table because at two hours, it all should be headed back into the fridge. Your gravy will be good for one or two days and your turkey as well as most casseroles and stuffing between last three or four days. Always remember to reheat to 165 degrees or higher.
Follow Kristin Kirkpatrick, M.S., R.D., L.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KRISTINKIRKPAT