ENID, Okla. — Cook
Appearance and food color are not reliable indicators of proper cooking. For a turkey, insert a food thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and the thickest part of the breast. The meat and the stuffing are not safe until the temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Soups, sauces and gravies should be brought to a rolling boil — even for re-heating.
Even after food has been cooked, bacteria thrive at room temperature. No matter how long your family lingers at the table after the meal, make sure that leftovers have been packed away in the refrigerator within two hours.
If you’re traveling from afar, bringing dishes to someone else’s house, it’s important to be aware of the need for keeping foods properly chilled any time two hours or more may elapse after cooking. Proper chilling is under 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and the trunk of your car is unlikely to be that cool.
Preparing for the feast
Make sure you have the refrigerator and stove space to follow these four basic principles.
• Do you buy a fresh or frozen turkey? Each has its advantages, but if you’re going for fresh turkey, buy it no more than two days before you’ll be cooking it. You can buy a frozen bird any time the price is right, but make sure you have room in your freezer and, later, in your refrigerator for thawing.
• The turkey should be thawed in its original wrapper in the refrigerator, allowing 24 hours for each four to five pounds. That means for a turkey large enough to feed 12 to 16 people (a pound per person), you’ll need to start your thawing three or four days ahead.
• If you don’t have that much time, an alternative method is to thaw the bird in cold water in the sink, changing the water every 30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes of defrosting time for every pound of turkey. Never defrost on the countertop at room temperature!
• Everyone counts on having leftovers the day after a holiday feast. But don’t push the storage for longer than three or four days without freezing. Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees or until the food is hot and steaming. Sauces, soups and gravies should be brought to a boil. When using the microwave, make sure there are no cold spots where bacteria can thrive.
Food safety is mostly a matter of common sense. Your mother and grandmother didn’t have time to give you all these details and still show you how to make delicious gravy ... without lumps.
Rupp is a certified information and referral specialist on aging for NODA Area Agency on Aging. Contact her at 237-2236.