Whether or not you get festive about celebrating winter holidays, many of us will be enjoying more food than usual this time of year. If your friends and family are anything like mine, your main gatherings center around grabbing coffee, a bite out to eat at a local favorite or going to a relative's home to share a meal. Because of this, we need to be careful when it comes to protecting ourselves from food-borne illness. Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD suggests you take the following precautions with food prep and leftovers.
1. Have a master plan. Chefs do it, and so should you. Consider your refrigerator, freezer and oven space, and how you'll manage to keep hot foods at 140 degrees or higher and cold foods at 40 degrees or below.
2. Cook to proper temperature -- and use a thermometer. There is simply no other way to determine that food has been cooked enough to kill bacteria. Turkeys, stuffing, side dishes, and all leftovers should be cooked to at least 165 degrees and kept above 140 degrees during serving to be sure that any potential bacteria is destroyed, says Karen Blakeslee, MS, of the Kansas State University Food Science Institute. Remember the golden rule: Keep hot food hot and cold food cold.