Family reunions and home-cooked meals are a treasured part of the holiday season, but as we gear up for Thanksgiving, the executive director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School said cooks need to take some important safety precautions to avoid a potential dinner disaster .
Bruce Ruck said make sure you don’t leave a frozen turkey to thaw. Keep it in the fridge “on a shelf that can catch any spills, put it on the lowest possible shelf so we don’t get cross-contamination of other foods or the fridge itself if something drips.”
He said leaving a turkey outside to thaw opens the door to possible bacterial contamination, “particularly because there are different layers in the turkey that thaw earlier than the others.”
Ruck explained that when preparing your Thanksgiving meal, you also need to be careful about cross-contamination.
“If you’re cutting something raw, wash that knife or any spoons or utensils you’re using before you cut anything else or use it on another piece of food,” he said.
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The turkey should be fully cooked. Click here for a temperature guide.
Ruck said while many foods can be microwaved in their packaging, turkeys are not.
You want to make sure you remove all plastic packaging and you want to make sure the turkey is washed and cleaned before you start cooking.
Food poisoning warning
He stressed that to reduce the chance of food going bad, most items should not be left on the table for more than an hour or two because food poisoning is unpredictable.
“One person can get a little bit of an upset stomach, but on the other end of the spectrum someone can get seriously ill.”
Ruck said young children and the elderly are much more susceptible to food poisoning-related dehydration than most adults in their 30s and 40s.
He said if you’re preparing a Thanksgiving meal, check to see if guests have any specific food allergies.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, he also found that hot food can be placed directly in the refrigerator without first refrigerating it. When reheating leftovers, consider using a food thermometer to ensure the food reaches at least 165 degrees before eating.
“Don’t cook when you’re sick, stay away from the kitchen,” he added. “I’m not necessarily talking about COVID, I’m just talking about common flu symptoms, colds are going crazy.”
You can reach the New Jersey Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222
David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]
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