5 Key Tips on Safely Preparing Your Big Meal

Iris Lang

The holiday season is right around the corner and you know what that means – delicious home cooked meals!  In Eau Claire County alone, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that 17,000 residents will become sick this year from eating unsafe food. Food safety is the most important ingredient to prevent foodborne illness when preparing food for the holidays.

Food is a key part to many holiday celebrations; don’t let foodborne illness ruin your holiday. Use these food safety tips when preparing food this holiday season.

Clean your hands and food contact surfaces often

• Wash your hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
• Wash food contact surfaces such as countertops, cutting boards, and utensils between preparing each food item.

Separate raw meat from ready to eat food

• Separate raw meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood from foods that won’t be cooked when grocery shopping, storing food in the refrigerator, and while preparing meals to prevent cross contamination.
• Use separate cutting boards and utensils when handling raw meat.
• Protect your cooked food by putting it on clean plates and surfaces.

Cook your food to the proper temperature

• To ensure that raw meat is cooked to a safe internal temperature, follow all cooking temperature directions.
• Use a food thermometer to check the thickest part of the meat. If the temperature is greater than or equal to the temperature recommended, your food is done!
• Undercooking raw meat can allow harmful bacteria to remain on your food.

Chill leftover food within two hours

• Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in shallow containers to cool evenly.
• Maintain refrigerator temperature at 40°F and freezers at 0°F.
• Leftover foods stored in the refrigerator should be eaten within 3 to 4 days. Leftovers that are frozen are safe indefinitely.

Reheat leftovers to 165 °F

• To keep your food safe, keep it out of the temperature danger zone: 41 °F to 135 °F to stop the growth of bacteria.
• Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold!

About the Author(s)

Iris Lang

Iris Lang is an Environmental Health Specialist with the Eau Claire City-County Health Department. She is an Eau Claire native and plans to stick around the Chippewa Valley. In her free time she enjoys leading an active lifestyle and crafting with yarn.

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