About that turkey you’re about to bake

Savvy cooks already know the basics of food safety: clean surfaces and utensils; separate raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood from ready-to-eat foods and don’t contaminate plates or utensils with raw juices; cook to proper internal temperatures; and chill, i.e. keep cold foods cold and refrigerate leftovers within two hours.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) advises all cooks and food handlers to go beyond the basics this holiday season, however.

The only way to avoid foodborne illness is to make sure the turkey is cooked to the correct internal temperature of 165-degrees fahrenheit as measured by a food thermometer. If you cook stuffing in the turkey (not recommended), check its temperature, too.

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.

The direct heat from the pot and lengthy cooking time combine to destroy bacteria, making slow cookers a good choice for safely cooking foods.

Also, don’t leave perishable foods at room temperature (on the table or countertops) for longer than two hours.

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. So be careful and keep all surfaces clean.

Now, enjoy preparing the Thanksgiving feast!

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