It’s the age-old concern that crosses every cooks’ mind when they carve the first slice of their Christmas bird: I hope it’s cooked properly! Fortunately, you’ve followed Delia’s advice to a tee and produced a well-seasoned, succulent turkey for your guests to enjoy, when lo and behold several guests come down with a bad case of food poisoning on boxing day. The culprit – cross contaminated carrots.
Food Safety doesn’t begin and end with ensuring the juices of meat run clear, as many people believe. Poorly reheated food, cross contamination and incorrectly stored food can all lead to food poisoning and put a dampener on your festive season.
Follow these top ten tips below, put together by The Food Standards Agency, to ensure your Christmas is free from food poisoning.
Top Ten Food Safety Tips
- Don’t wash your turkey.
Washing raw turkey is unnecessary and can spread germs. Harmful bacteria can easily splash from raw meat and poultry onto worktops, chopping boards, dishes and utensils. Germs that cause food poisoning can also linger for days in the sink. Up to 80% of people significantly increase the risk of food poisoning by washing their turkeys before cooking them.
- Make sure your turkey is cooked thoroughly.
Check your bird is steaming hot all the way through. Cut into the thickest part of the bird to check that none of the meat is pink and ensure that the juices which run out are clear.
- Use your leftovers safely.
We all hate to waste food, so if you’ve stored cooked turkey in the fridge, eat it within two days. If you want to make your turkey leftovers last longer, put them in the freezer within one to two hours of cooking. Portion up the food to aid cooling, and then store in the freezer.
- Defrost your leftovers thoroughly.
If you have frozen your leftovers to make them last even longer, defrost them thoroughly before reheating. Defrost them in the fridge overnight or in the microwave if you are going to cook and eat them straight away. Eat defrosted leftovers within 24-hours and do not refreeze. The only exception is if you are defrosting raw food, which can be refrozen after it’s been cooked.
- Use your leftovers creatively.
Love Food Hate Waste has some great suggestions to make the most of your leftovers. Visit them here: www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/recipes
- Keep it clean.
Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before preparing food and after handling raw meat or poultry. Make sure your worktops and utensils are clean and disinfected.
- Be fridge friendly.
Check your fridge is at the right temperature – below 5°C – to stop germs from growing. Don’t pack the food too tightly as the cold air needs to circulate to cool your food.
- Defrost fully.
If you buy a frozen turkey, make sure that the turkey is fully defrosted before cooking it. It can take as long as 48-hours for a large turkey to thaw. When you start defrosting, put the turkey in a large covered dish at the bottom of the fridge. Avoid touching other foods and ensure the dish is large enough to collect any liquid, so it doesn’t contaminate other foods.
- Avoid cross-contamination.
Use different chopping board and knives for raw meat and foods that are ready-to-eat, like cooked meats, salads and raw vegetables, and ensure they are cleaned between each use. This will help to stop germs spreading. Keep your raw turkey and other raw meats on the bottom shelf of the fridge, separate from other foods.
- Food safety at Christmas is not just about turkeys.
Most people are aware of the importance of handling poultry safely, but many don’t consider the risk of food poisoning from vegetables. Remember that it’s important to peel your vegetables as necessary, because soil can sometimes carry harmful bacteria. Although many food producers have good systems in place to clean vegetables, the risk can never be entirely eliminated. Washing with rubbing and movement will help to remove bacteria from the surface of fruit and vegetables.
More useful links on seasonal safety
Food Standards Agency Recommendations for Food Safety for Christmas web link:
Astutis wishes you a happy and contamination free Christmas. Enjoy your turkey!