Dangerous Dinners: Tips for Safer Cooking

A bigger waistline is not the only possible repercussion of your favorite holiday dishes. Improper food handling can promote the growth of potentially harmful bacteria. Cooking and storing foods at appropriate temperatures and proper sanitation can minimize the risk of food poising spoiling your holiday.

In the Kitchen:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABacteria such as E.coli and salmonella are often found in raw meat. Fortunately, thorough cooking can kill many of these harmful bacteria. Use a thermometer to ensure your dish reaches a safe internal temperature. A cooked roast should have an internal temperature of 140°F while a turkey needs an internal temperature of 165°F.

Improper handling of raw meat can also expose you and your guests to harmful bacteria. To prevent contamination, separate raw meat from ready-to-eat foods such as vegetables and breads. Use separate cutting boards and knives for raw meat.

The Holiday Party:

The giant platter at your end-of-semester celebration can be a haven for bacteria. Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium perfringens are just two examples of harmful bacteria that multiply quickly at room temperature. Large numbers of people touching food increases the likelihood of food being contaminated by pathogens.

  • dinner-1324347Do not leave food out for more than two hours. Bacteria multiply twice as quickly in food between 40° F and 145°F.
  • Instead of refilling one large platter, use several smaller platters. Not only does this allow you to keep foods at proper temperatures until people are ready to eat them, but it also limits the number of people touching a particular item.
  • Use shallow serving dishes to promote even cooling and heating.
  • Do not use a slow cooker or warming tray to reheat food. Both methods allow food to stay between 40° F and 145°F for prolonged periods of time.

For more information about safe food preparation, visit food safety.gov.

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