One of the most important things to keep in mind when preparing your holiday meal is food safety.
There are many different types of bacteria that can make you sick, and what’s worse than getting sick from unsafe food during the holidays?
Not only do you have less time to recover before everything starts back up again, but it also ruins any chance at feeling like yourself for weeks on end.
The last thing you want is to get sick from an undercooked turkey entrée!
But of course, we all know people who spend too much time cleaning and no time enjoying themselves!
It’s totally possible to go overboard in cleaning where too much cleanliness becomes a burden on your mental health!
How do you find the balance between cleanliness and not worrying about every single germ?
In my opinion, it’s all about knowing the easiest food safety tips that will get you the most bang for your buck, like knowing the most popular supplement manufacturers for safety.
This blog post will cover some of the easiest safe food handling practices for when preparing your holiday meal. But first, let’s talk about food safety itself first!
What is food safety and why is it important?
Food safety is all about what you do before, during, and after food preparation to ensure that everyone is safe from potential contaminants found in unsafe food.
During the holiday season when people are spending so much time together in one place it’s easy for contagious bacteria like norovirus to spread through your circle of friends.
Luckily there are some simple steps you can take this holiday season that will minimize these risks!
The first thing I want to talk about is proper hand washing techniques since they’re probably not something we think too hard about.
And yet our hands touch everything all day long which means they likely have lots of germs on them at any given moment! We need a foolproof way to make sure those pesky little microbes don’t end up in our food.
1 – Keep Your Hands and Your Surfaces Clean
You want to do everything in your power to prevent an E. coli outbreak within your family.
So make sure to keep your hands and any surfaces as clean as you can. Wash your hands before, during, and after every step of prep-work so that cross contamination doesn’t occur.
You don’t want to have chicken juice on your hands as you work on assembling a pie!
Here are tips to keep your hands clean:
- Wet your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before you start to cook.
- Use a paper towel to turn off the faucet when you’re done washing your hands.
- Avoid touching your face, especially your nose and mouth.
- If you have to sneeze or cough, do it into the crook of your arm instead of into your hands.
And what about hand sanitizer?
Hand sanitizer is fine, but please realize it takes about 5 minutes for hand sanitizer to kill those germs on your hands.
Warm soapy water on the other hand is much quicker!
So if you are relying on hand sanitizer, please be sure to douse your hands with sanitizer and then give yourself a few minutes before you grab that turkey!
Tips to keep surfaces clean:
- Keep all surfaces clean by wiping them down with a bleach solution (one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water).
- Make sure to clean your countertops, cutting boards, utensils, and any other surfaces that may have come into contact with food.
- Remember to sanitize your sink by filling it with hot soapy water and letting it sit for a few minutes before rinsing.
2 – Cook Your Food Thoroughly
One of the biggest food safety tips for preparing your holiday meal is to avoid serving bacteria-ridden dishes at the dinner table.
If you volunteered to provide a meat dish, make sure you cook it all the way through at an appropriate temperature.
Keep meat, chicken, seafood, turkey, and eggs separate from one another while you cook.
Of course, please check expiration dates as food quality is obviously important 🙂
Additionally, purchase a food thermometer to ensure the food got cooked all the way through. One of the biggest food safety problems is undercooked foods that upset peoples stomachs!
But what if I am cooking multiple dishes at once?
If cooking multiple dishes that require different temps, make sure to begin cooking the dish that requires less time first!
This will help to ensure that everything is cooked evenly and at the correct temperature.
For example, if you are cooking chicken and ham together, cook the chicken first because it takes less time than the ham.
If you are cooking a turkey, start with the bird in a cold oven and turn up the heat gradually.
It’s also important to remember that just because something looks browned on the outside does not mean it is fully cooked inside – take your food thermometer out for a spin!
Bottom line: Make sure everything is cooked all the way through so you don’t have any sick guests this holiday season!
3 – Don’t Consume Raw Dough, Raw Meat, Eggs or Batter
Whether you make a pie crust or a mountain of cookies, eating the raw dough isn’t a good idea.
Flour and eggs contain harmful germs such as Salmonella and E. coli, which cause food poisoning.
Foods to avoid eating raw include tortillas, pancakes, pies, pizza doughs, and cakes.
You can eat and bake edible cookie and brownie dough recipes, but ideally, you should avoid the raw cookie dough!
One friendly tip is to use ready to eat foods like pre-baked pie crusts or cookie dough that’s already been mixed. That way you almost entirely avoid any danger of eating contaminated food.
Why are raw foods possibly dangerous?
Raw meat and other raw foods may contain harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Cross contamination is also a concern, as raw foods may come into contact with surfaces or utensils that have not been properly cleaned.
But why do raw foods have more bacteria than cooked foods?
Well, the answer in a nutshell, is that bacteria grow faster at a cold temperature. And so, that is why you need to cook your food all the way through – to kill those pesky germs!
Just leave a piece of raw meat on the counter and you’ll see those germs forming pretty quickly! Like, you’ll literally see the raw meat turning green in a short amount of time! Talk about unsafe food, yuck!
Now, I know there are some people who would like more info about food safety so …
What are food safety rules, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration?
- Clean – Always wash your food, hands, counters, and cooking tools.
- Separate (Keep Apart) – Keep raw foods to themselves. Germs can spread from one food to another.
- Cook – Foods need to get hot and stay hot. Heat kills germs.
- Chill – Put food in the fridge right away.
While food safety regulations go beyond the scope of this article, I highly recommend you learn more about various issues pertaining to food supply chain, food business operators and how the food industry impacts nearly every aspect of the food you eat!
If you want to learn more about food safety standards, read this FDA article here.
About Food Poisoning
The whole point of cleaning and food safety is to avoid food poisoning. But what is food poisoning exactly?
Food poisoning is a result of consuming food or water that has been contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites and their toxins. Symptoms usually start showing shortly after eating the tainted meal but can take as long as three days to appear.
Symptoms from eating contaminated food include:
- Stomach cramps and fever within eight hours to three days after ingesting contaminates from undercooked meat (especially pork), unwashed fruits and vegetables among other things.
The best way to avoid food poisoning and other serious health problems? Follow the tips above!
Always remember what Bob Barker said – “Please don’t let anyone tell you it’s okay to eat raw cookie dough.” Thank You!
Food Safety Conclusion
Food safety is a complex subject that can be daunting to understand. However, there are some basic guidelines you should follow in order to avoid food poisoning and keep your family healthy this holiday season:
- Wash hands regularly
- Cook foods thoroughly
- Don’t consume raw dough or batter
- Separate raw and cooked meats from one another when cooking (and always make sure the meat has been fully cooked)
- Use hot soapy water for cleaning purposes and bleach solution for sanitizing surfaces.
With these food safety tips, hopefully what could have been an intimidating task will seem much more manageable!