Don’t let the hours spent preparing Thanksgiving dinner go to waste by compromising food safety.
A recent survey found that nearly two-thirds of Americans are ignoring United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines for safe food preparation, putting their Thanksgiving guests at risk.
Foodborne pathogens sicken about one in six Americans a year, of whom 128,000 will be hospitalized and 6,000 will die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That’s despite the fact that more than 70 percent of Americans say they cook most days of the week, according to new research from CouponBirds — further revealing that many myths about clean cooking persist.
Read on to learn more about the sanitary steps you may be missing in your holiday dining routine.
Should you wash the turkey before cooking?
The survey of 1,000 American adults found that more than three in five (62.3%) people “always” wash their meat before cooking, and 4.7% wash it “if it looks like it needs to.”
For fish and seafood, 65% of respondents always wash before cooking and 14% wash “sometimes” or “if it looks like it needs to.”
The majority of people (52.9%) admit to washing their food before cooking to ‘wash away nasty particles’, while others want to get rid of ‘any meat juices’ (33.9%) or worry about where it has been they bought it before (27.3%).
In this case, the majority of respondents are wrong: according to the USDA, washing raw meat, fish and poultry helps spread germs in the kitchen by covering the sink area with juices, increasing the chances of cross-contamination with other foods, utensils and hands.
How often should you wash your hands while cooking?
One in five people admitted to not washing their hands “some or most of the time” before cooking.
The results found that men were more likely than women to skip this step at 5.2%, and 35 to 44-year-olds were the least likely to wash their hands before cooking (28.5%).
Meanwhile, more than half of those surveyed wash their hands while cooking between each ingredient.
The study found that 89.5 percent of those cooking for Thanksgiving prepared at least one meat dish, suggesting that about 28.7 million turkeys are at increased risk of infection because of the way they were prepared .
To prevent cross-contamination and reduce the risk of spreading bacteria, the USDA advises people to wash their hands before starting food preparation and after handling raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs, even if wearing gloves.
How long can I keep Thanksgiving leftovers?
One of the best parts of Thanksgiving is the leftovers, which you have to follow for days—even though you don’t too many days, experts advise.
The USDA recommends storing Thanksgiving leftovers in shallow containers in the refrigerator until the following Monday or Tuesday (4 days) or directly in the freezer for leftovers later.
For many, the second serving of Thanksgiving dinner is as eagerly anticipated as the first—but don’t leave the dishes covered for long. Perishable items must be cooled within two hours of being removed from the oven or refrigerator. After two hours, perishable food enters the “danger zone” and must be thrown away if it has been missed.
If reheating in the oven, make sure the leftovers have reached a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Sauces, soups and sauces can be reheated by simmering.
Microwaving leftovers is a bit more complicated: Food must be arranged evenly in a microwave-safe dish and must be covered and rotated for even heating. Liquid can be added if necessary and it is important to check the internal temperature in several places due to microwave cold spots.