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Friday, November 20, 2009

Organizing Holiday Meals with Safety in Mind

As we prepare for holiday meals, we need to organize with safety in mind. I found an article on food safety and a couple on safety practices in the kitchen. I had not considered some of these suggestions before - they are definitely ones to practice! By putting these tips into practice, you'll help create wonderful memories, not ones that include the emergency room!

"Thanksgiving is upon us and with it comes the traditional turkey dinner. However, the improper storing, cooking, and serving of roast turkey can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria like salmonella, which can cause foodborne illness.

The DuPage County Health Department advises consumers that safe food handling of turkey and other holiday foods is essential in preventing foodborne illness. Here are some tips to share with your family for preparing a Thanksgiving bird safely.
  • Thaw the frozen turkey in the refrigerator. Allow one day for each five pounds of turkey. A twenty-pound turkey will take about four days to thaw. Hint: Remove neck & giblets from inside the bird as soon as possible to hasten thawing.
  • Do not thaw on the kitchen counter. If you do not have time to thaw in the refrigerator, you may thaw it in cold water, provided that the turkey is in a leak-proof packaging, it is submerged, and the water is changed every half-hour. Allow 30 minutes per pound of turkey to thaw in cold water.
  • Cook fresh turkeys within two days, thawed ones within four days.
  • Wash your hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling raw poultry. Wash all knives, cutting boards and utensils also after using for raw poultry.
  • Read and follow the cooking directions on the label. Cook turkey until it is done (165°F). Do not slow cook overnight at low temperatures or partially cook. Some turkeys come with pop-up thermometers. They are to be used only as a guide to doneness. Take the temperature with a meat thermometer to be sure the temperature is over 165°F.
  • Stuffing should not be prepared a day ahead and the turkey should not be stuffed until ready to cook. A quicker, safer method is to cook the stuffing separately in a casserole, using some of the pan juices to flavor and moisten the stuffing.
  • Eat the meal as soon as it is prepared. Do not leave leftovers out on the counter or table after dinner. Cut the meat off the bones and put it in shallow containers in the refrigerator.
  • Reheat all leftovers to 165°F. (Use your meat thermometer.) Gravy should be brought to a rolling boil."
Source: DuPage Health

"It's your turn to host Thanksgiving dinner. Your house is filled with family and friends, many of whom are "helping" you in your suddenly cramped kitchen. There are dishes everywhere, open drawers and cupboards, steam rising from boiling pots, and where did you put that carving knife?

For those who work in food preparation, this chaos is all too familiar. And so are the hazards. So here's some advice from the food service industry to help you and your guests stay injury-free in your kitchen this Thanksgiving-and throughout the year.

The Hazards and Safety Practices of a Busy Kitchen

The food service industry is not the most hazardous, but it does have its dangers. Here's how to handle five common food service hazards that can also be found in many kitchens on holiday weekends.

1. Slips, trips and falls. Dress for cooking with safety in mind. Choose low-heeled, secure shoes with a non-skid sole and an enclosed toe. (A falling measuring cup can inflict as much damage on your toes as a falling hammer if it lands the wrong way.)Don't hurry; take short steps to prevent slips.Pick up trash and food scraps that fall to the floor, and wipe up spills promptly to prevent slipping accidents.

2. Collisions. Be alert for potential collisions with others, especially at doorways and around the stove.When passing someone who may not see you, say, "Behind you."

3. Burns and scalds.
  • Never wear loose clothing or baggy sleeves while cooking.
  • Don't reach across fryers, stoves and other hot surfaces and materials.
  • Use potholders when handling pots.
  • Use caution around steam and boiling water. Protect your face and arms when lifting pot lids. When removing the cover from a boiling pot, expose the far side of the pot first, to release steam.
  • Never leave oil under heat unattended.
  • Never overfill a fryer with oil or food.
  • Cool oil before moving it.
  • Turn pan handles aside so they don't get bumped or snag on clothing, but keep them clear of other burners.
  • Before microwaving food, vent the container by lifting the edge of the cover.
  • Use caution when opening covered containers that have been in the microwave, and open them away from your face.
4. Heat illness. Kitchen workers are at risk for heat illness as well, so drink plenty of water and make sure you take an occasional break from your hot kitchen.

5. Cuts from knives or other sharp kitchen tools.
  • Unplug the food processor when loading, emptying or changing blades.
  • Keep knives sharp. Dull knives require too much force to operate; they can slip and cause cuts.
  • Use the right knife for the job.
  • When cutting, slice down and away from your hand and body.
  • Keep your fingers and thumbs out of the cutting line.
  • Carry knives with the cutting edge angled slightly away from your body and the tip pointed down.
  • Don't hand a knife to someone. Instead, place it down on a clean surface and the let the other person pick it up.
  • Don't place knives near the edge of a countertop.
  • Don't use a knife while distracted.
  • If you drop something, let it fall. You can receive serious cuts if you try to catch falling knives or glassware.
Conclusion: It's a lot of work preparing a holiday meal, but it doesn't have to be dangerous. With care and attention, you can stay safe and injury-free, and able to enjoy the blessings of a special meal with your loved ones. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!"

Here's another article by ABC on safety in the kitchen.

Stay safe during the holidays!

More on food safety:

Decluttering Plastics - Which Ones are Safe?
Get Organized Month 2009 - Organizing Your Fridge to Keep Foods Fresh
Demystifying Food Expiration Dates