Roasting a Christmas turkey this year?
If so, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has some holiday food safety tips that might surprise even the best Rappahannock County chefs.
Food handling errors and inadequate cooking are the most common problems that lead to foodborne disease outbreaks, particularly among infants, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.
VDACS lists these safety tips:
Wash your hands, but not your turkey: Washing your hands before cooking is the simplest way to stop the spread of bacteria, while washing your turkey is the easiest way to spread bacteria all over your kitchen.
Stuff your face but not your turkey: For optimal safety, do not stuff the turkey. Even if the turkey is cooked to the correct internal temperature, the stuffing inside may not have reached a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria. Cooking stuffing in a separate dish is safest.
Take the temperature of the bird: The only way to avoid foodborne illness is to make sure the turkey is cooked to the correct internal temperature of 165º F as measured by a food thermometer. If you cook stuffing in the turkey (again, not recommended) check its temperature, too.
Follow the two-hour rule: Don’t leave perishable foods at room temperature (on the table or countertops) for longer than two hours.
Finally, consider the food safety advantages of a slow cooker: The direct heat from the pot and lengthy cooking time combine to destroy bacteria, making slow cookers a good choice for safely cooking foods.