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Food Safety: The Most Important Ingredient

Thanksgiving feast

It's turkey time again! Thanksgiving is an exciting time for many Americans because of two main things: family and (maybe most importantly to some) the food. But one thing we might not always think about is safety.

Cooking a turkey for your family feast is a well-known tradition at Thanksgiving, but homecooked meat can be dangerous if not prepared properly. Here are some tips for keeping you and your family safe from potential bacteria and infections.

  • Wash hands before and after preparing food

  • Avoid cross contamination of raw meat

  • Avoid stuffing the turkey while it is raw

  • Cook meat to safe temperature

  • Don’t leave leftovers out too long, and store them safely

Everyone knows to wash their hands before and after preparing food, but we could all use a reminder. No two raw meats are the same, so any surface where you have prepared raw meat should be sanitized, and hands should be thoroughly washed before moving on to preparing the next dish. Cross-contamination between raw meats and other foods can lead to the spread of pathogens that cause salmonella and campylobacter. It is also the reason the USDA doesn’t recommend you stuff your turkey while it is raw, due to the risk of the bacteria spreading to the stuffing inside. And what’s the point of stuffing if you can’t enjoy it?!

The only way to ensure that your turkey is safe to eat is by cooking it to the proper internal temperature in order to avoid ingesting any bacteria. Heating the meat to the proper temperature will kill off the unwanted bacteria, and for turkey, the temperature needed is at least 165º Fahrenheit. You should check for this temperature in the thickest part of the breast, and the innermost parts of the thigh and wing. Even if you’re too full after stuffing yourself, it’s important that any leftover food be stored properly—don’t leave leftovers out for more than 2 hours, or bacteria will spread.

For those adventurous enough to deep fry your turkey, please take precautions. Chief Fire Marshal Mike Julazadeh of the Charleston South Carolina Fire Department recommends the following:

  • Set the fryer on a level surface more than 10ft away from your home and keep children and pets away


  • Your turkey should be thawed and dried to avoid extra water making the oil bubble over and causing a fire

  • Be mindful of the amount of oil needed, and keep track of the oil’s temperature to avoid burning yourself

  • Have a fire extinguisher handy in case the oil ignites

With all of that said, your friends at STEP wish you a safe and happy Thanksgiving!




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