Advice for Holiday Cooks
A Job Too Well Done?
Cooking to proper internal temperatures not only ensures the safety of your holiday meat, it also helps ensure the taste. According to a recent Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics survey*, more than half of all home cooks (56 percent) admit they have cooked a holiday turkey for so long it tasted dry. To make sure your holiday turkey (or other main meat dish) is both safe and delicious, use a food thermometer to check for doneness.
Tick Tock, Swap
More than one-third (37 percent) of holiday meals are buffet or potluck-style. After you set your spread, be sure to set your timer: After two hours, harmful bacteria can multiply rapidly, putting you and your guests at risk of foodborne illness. Help ensure the safety of your holiday smorgasbord by promptly refrigerating foods below 40°F within two hours. Or, as a back up for longer gatherings, keep a fresh set of food in the fridge and swap it out at the two-hour mark.
While two out of three Americans typically cook stuffing inside their holiday turkey at least some of the time, most (79 percent) don't know the proper temperature to which it should be cooked! To ensure that your stuffed bird is thoroughly cooked, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperatures of both turkey and stuffing – a whole turkey should reach the safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F deep in the thigh; stuffing should reach 165°F. (For safety and uniform doneness of turkey, cook stuffing separately.)
Two Times = Too Many
It's true: 38 percent of Americans admit to “double dipping” at holiday parties! (That means they dip a chip or vegetable into a bowl of dip or salsa, bite off half, and then dip again.) While this may be the season for sharing, when it comes to dipping, one time is enough!
Fa La-La-La Leftovers
For most Americans, eating leftovers from a holiday meal is as traditional as the meal itself. And while some (60 percent) choose to eat their repeat feasts cold straight from the fridge, most of us either reheat foods in the microwave/oven (73 percent), or pack a “leftover lunch” to take to work or school (71 percent). How ever you decide to reinvent your holiday meal, take steps to help ensure it's as safe as it is delicious: Always reheat leftover foods to an internal temperature of 165°F and make sure food is not left out of refrigeration for more than two hours. Pack perishable lunch foods in an insulated bag and throw in an ice pack to make sure foods stay properly chilled.
A festive holiday drink may not be complete without a colorful garnish of lime or orange. But beware: One in four holiday hosts confess they don't always wash fruit to remove harmful bacteria before adding it to your drink. In addition to washing ready-to eat fruits like pears and plums, it's also important to wash fruits with skin you don’t eat such as limes, oranges and lemons to eliminate harmful bacteria that can spread during peeling or cutting.
*Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Survey, conducted by Impulse Research Corporation, November 2004.