Four Thanksgiving cooking safety tips you need to know

‘Their handling procedures have a major impact on the safety of that product’

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Between the kids, the inlaws and keeping track of what goes in the oven at what time, preparing a Thanksgiving meal can be overwhelming and sometimes corners get cut when it comes to food safety.

That’s why a food safety expert and professor at Virginia Tech, Dr. Robert Williams, shared safety tips everyone needs to keep in mind so that no one gets sick with a foodborne illness.

“It’s important that they understand that their handling procedures have a major impact on the safety of that product,” said Williams.

It all starts with properly thawing a turkey. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends thawing turkeys in a refrigerator, which could take several days.

Williams added that turkeys should be cooked within two days after they’re fully thawed. You can also use a microwave to thaw a turkey or in a leak-proof plastic bag submerged in cold water in the sink.

“We’re going to need to exchange that water every 30 minutes," Williams said. "But we only want to use the cold water tap, not the hot water side.”

Don’t forget, it’s important to never rinse raw meat in the sink.

“We don’t want to rinse unpackaged turkeys in the sink because that’s just going to allow for water splatters to go everywhere and it’s going to present a real challenge for cross-contamination," Williams said.

Next, he said to follow four steps:

  1. Clean
  2. Separate
  3. Cook
  4. Chill

Wash your hands and clean all utensils and surfaces before, during and after cooking. Separate raw meat from foods that don’t need to be cooked

“We don’t want to have raw meats and poultry using the same cutting boards and surfaces and utensils that you’re going to use to make a salad,” Williams said.

When it’s time to cook, set the oven to at least 325°F and make sure the thickest parts of the turkey reach an internal temperature of 165°F.

After everyone’s done eating, Williams said to slice meat and store leftovers in the fridge within two hours, so it can chill properly.

“At those warmer temperatures, some bacteria can grow that may be able to cause foodborne illness,” Williams said. “Salmonella, E. coli, but also Clostridium Perfringens”

Most importantly, keep temperature control in mind and remember to clean, separate, cook and chill.

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