As the end of the year approaches, it’s likely there are multiple parties and thus many meals in your future. Carrying food from one location to another and sharing dishes with a crowd means more opportunity for bacteria to grow and cause food poisoning. Whether you’re a skilled cook, a first-time party host, or simply adding a dish to the potluck lineup, the holidays can make even the most confident chefs nervous. The Lincoln County Health Department wants everyone to have a safe holiday season by sharing these food safety tips.
Safely thaw your turkey. Thaw turkey in the refrigerator, in a clean sink of cold water that is changed every 30 minutes, or in the microwave. Avoid thawing foods on the counter. A turkey must thaw at a safe temperature to prevent harmful germs from growing rapidly.
Cooking meat properly. A whole turkey is safe to eat when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. Most hams can be bought precooked. Precooked hams should have an internal temperature of 140° F. If you are cooking a raw ham it should reach a temperature of 145° F for 3 minutes. Beef roasts are often cooked at different temperatures depending on preferences, however remember consuming any food that is undercooked can increase your chances of getting a food borne illness. For medium rare 145 °F, medium 160 °F, and well done 175 °F.
Use pasteurized eggs for dishes containing raw eggs. Salmonella and other harmful germs can live on both the outside and inside of normal-looking eggs. Many holiday favorites contain raw eggs, including eggnog, Tom and Jerry’s, tiramisu, hollandaise sauce, and Caesar dressing. Always use pasteurized eggs when making these and other foods made with raw eggs.
Do not eat dough or batter. Dough and batter made with flour or eggs can contain harmful germs, such as E. coli and Salmonella. Do not taste or eat raw dough or batter of any kind, including those for cookies, cakes, pies, biscuits, pancakes, tortillas, pizza, or crafts. Do not let children taste raw dough or batter or play with dough at home or in restaurants.
Keep food out of the “danger zone.” Bacteria can grow rapidly at room temperature. After food is cooked, keep hot food hot (135° F and above) and cold food cold (41° F or below). The danger zone is often referred to as between 41- 135° F. Refrigerate or freeze any perishable food within 2 hours, to include foods at a potluck, which are not kept at proper temperature.
For more information about food illness, visit: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/foodborne/index.htm .