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Christmas food safety – don’t be a turkey!

Created on Wednesday, December 6th, 2017
by Kathryn Shaw

The last thing any of us want is to fall ill over Christmas, especially if it could have been avoided by taking extra care when prepping and cooking your Christmas turkey.

Defrosting

Past research by the Food Standards Agency shows that nearly 70% of Brits don’t defrost the turkey in the fridge.

This can make your turkey a breeding ground for bacteria, so you should always defrost in the fridge if possible. Make sure you place the bird on the lowest shelf, to prevent juices leaking and causing cross-contamination with other foods.

Defrosting will take a different amount of time depending on how big your bird is, for example a 6kg bird can take three days when thawing in the fridge.

Always make sure you give it plenty of time to defrost, because if your turkey has ice through the core then it will not cook properly in the oven.

Always follow defrosting instructions on the packaging. Don’t try to thaw your turkey quickly using shortcuts like submerging in warm water or using a hairdryer – these will increase your risk of food poisoning dramatically.

Prepping

Don’t make the mistake of washing the turkey in the sink, as this does not get rid of any bacteria: in fact, it spreads it! You should wash your hands with soap and warm water before you begin preparing the turkey (or any food). And of course, wash them thoroughly afterwards. Do not wipe your hands on a towel instead – this will spread bacteria.

You should always use one chopping board for your raw meat and one for your other ingredients, such as vegetables. If you don’t have more than one board, you should wash it after use in hot, soapy water.

You can use a watered-down bleach solution to disinfect it then, once washed, pat dry with paper towels which you can dispose of. The same goes for utensils or other items, such as plates that have been used to defrost raw meat.

Cooking

Your turkey will take a thousand hours to cook, but it will be worth it!

The packaging will almost always have instructions on how to cook your turkey, calculated by the weight of the bird. It’s a good idea to give yourself a little extra time to cook your turkey, as it will need to cool slightly before being carved anyway.

There should be no pink meat and it should be steaming hot with clear juices running from it.

The best way to ensure your turkey is cooked all the way through is to invest in a food thermometer. This should be used on the thickest part of the bird and the temperature needs to show 74C before you carve it up to serve. This includes anything you have stuffed the turkey with, as it’s been in contact with the raw meat.

And remember: it’s better for dinner to be served late than to be remembered as the person who poisoned their guests at Christmas dinner!

Leftovers

Any leftovers should be left to cool, then covered and placed in the fridge within 1-2 hours. You could even make extra meals and freeze the lot – even turkey is okay to freeze! Anything in the fridge should be eaten within 48 hours and anything that you have frozen, within 24 hours of defrosting.

Make sure that you defrost any frozen leftovers in the fridge thoroughly and reheat until steaming hot. Don’t take any chances with leftovers – if you think it is past its best, throw it away.

Image 1: flickr.com/usdagov

Image 2: flickr.com/laurenbeth

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