OKCIC promotes safe food handling during the holidays.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma City Indian Clinic (OKCIC), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit clinic providing health and wellness services to American Indians in central Oklahoma, wants to promote food safety tips for cooking a safe and delicious Thanksgiving meal.
Thanksgiving is approaching quickly, and many people will gather together for the holiday. Although cooking for large groups can be hectic, it’s important to remember food safety practices that will prevent foodborne illnesses.
“Certain foods, like raw meat and poultry, have a higher risk of carrying bacteria that can make you sick,” said Jessica New Moon, OKCIC Registered Dietitian. “Many times, a foodborne illness outbreak happens when foods are cooked in large batches and held in the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F for too long.”
When preparing food for the holiday, remember these four important steps to reduce your risk of foodborne illness:
- Clean: Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops before preparing food and between each item. Washing and rinsing meat and poultry is not recommended, and can increase your risk of cross-contamination.
- Separate: Keep raw meat separate from all other foods to prevent cross-contamination. It is recommended to cook stuffing in its own dish, instead of inside the turkey.
- Cook: Cook your food to a safe temperature. You cannot always rely on the color of the meat, so use a food thermometer to be sure your food is safe.
- Chill: Throw away all perishable foods left at room temperature for more than two hours or one hour in temperatures above 90°F. Be sure to refrigerate or freeze your leftovers in shallow containers to discourage bacterial growth.
Turkey is a large bird, and it has some additional guidelines for safe handling and cooking. The best way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator, and it will take about 24 hours for every five pounds. It is also acceptable to thaw a turkey in a cold water bath, which takes 30 minutes per pound, or the microwave. Never thaw a turkey at room temperature or in hot water.
When you cook your turkey, be sure your oven temperature is set no lower than 325°F. A lower oven temperature keeps the turkey at a hospitable temperature for bacterial growth for too long. It is safe to cook a frozen turkey, but it will take at least 50 percent longer to cook than a fully thawed turkey. Use a food thermometer to check that your turkey has reached an internal temperature of 165°F in three places: the thickest part of the breast, the innermost part of the wing and the innermost part of the thigh.
“When you store leftovers, be sure to use smaller containers and cut any big pieces of meat into smaller pieces,” said New Moon. “Larger portions of food take longer to cool down in the fridge, which gives the bacteria a chance to grow.”
Leftovers will stay safe in the fridge for four days, which means you have until the following Monday to enjoy your favorite Thanksgiving foods. If you want to keep them longer, they will stay safe in the freezer for up to six months. When reheating, be sure the food is heated to an internal temperature of 165°F. If you’re heating a sauce or gravy, bring it to a roiling boil.
Unsafe handling and under-cooking can lead to illness. Be sure to practice proper food safety to keep your Thanksgiving holiday safe.
About Oklahoma City Indian Clinic
Oklahoma City Indian Clinic was established in 1974 to provide excellent health care and wellness services to American Indians in central Oklahoma. The clinic staff cares for more than 22,000 patients from over 200 federally recognized tribes every year. American Indians can receive a range of services, including medical, dental, pediatrics, prenatal, pharmacy, optometry, physical fitness, nutrition, family programs and behavioral health services. For more information, please call (405) 948-4900 or visit www.okcic.com.