In The News
Holiday Food Bloopers!
Our family regularly checks out movies from the local library. We watch the movie and then comes everyone’s favorite part, the deleted scenes and bloopers. These are so popular in our culture that even animated films are creating blooper scenes. We are able to laugh at the mistakes of our favorite celebrities and Pixar characters. So what does this have to do with holiday food?
Each year the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Meat and Poultry Hotline answers calls on Thanksgiving Day about thawing, preparing and storing turkey. USDA described some of situations that could have been disastrous or even deadly in an article, “Holiday Food Safety Bloopers” on their Food Safety Blog (Diane Van, author; www.foodsafety.gov/blog/bloopers. html).
The following is some of the advice the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline staff gives:
Don’t Leave the Turkey Out for More Than Two Hours! One concerned caller put a turkey into the oven at 5 p.m. and didn’t turn the oven on until 2 a.m. Some asked about thawing a frozen turkey on the counter for several hours. Others wondered about leaving cooked turkey on the buffet all day long. Unfortunately, we had to tell the concerned caller that she should throw the turkey away. That’s because it spent more than two hours in The Danger Zone (temperature range of 40–140°F). And we told other callers to never thaw a turkey on the counter or leave cooked turkey out for more than two hours. The bottom line: It’s not safe to leave raw or cooked turkey (or any perishable food) at room temperature for more than two hours. Otherwise, you’re creating the perfect conditions for dangerous bacteria to multiply rapidly.
Don’t Roast the Turkey Overnight! A number of callers asked about roasting a turkey overnight at 200–250°F. We explained that this cooking method is just not safe. USDA does not recommend cooking meat and poultry at oven temperatures lower than 325°F. Anything below that runs the risk of leaving turkey in The Danger Zone for too long.
Don’t Buy Your Fresh Turkey Too Early! Many callers made the mistake of buying their fresh holiday turkeys too early. USDA recommends buying a fresh turkey no more than two days before you plan to cook it. Also, be sure to plan ahead when thawing a frozen turkey so it is not thawed too far in advance.
Don’t Forget the Food Thermometer! We talked with many cooks who said they used visual clues (such as color) to determine whether the turkey was done. The problem is that you can’t tell by looking! A whole turkey is cooked safely when it reaches a minimum internal temperature of 165°F. To check the turkey, insert the food thermometer in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
Not following food safety practices can cause serious illness for you, your family, and your friends. And it won’t be nearly as funny as the blooper reel after a favorite movie.
~Jamie Rathbun, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent