Happy Thanksgiving! As we gather today with family or friends, or maybe have a special meal shared that we might not otherwise have had, it’s important to think about not only how we consume those foods mindfully as I discussed last week, but also the ways in which those foods are prepared, held, stored, and reheated to keep everyone safe.
In my former life, one of the many hats I wore required that I hold the designation of a food service manager, and it came in handy overseeing the planning, preparation, serving, holding, and even some delivery of 2000+ meals several times a day at a disaster site. These days that knowledge gets applied to assisting my clients in their meal planning and preparation concerns, but the information is no less valid.
What does it mean for Thanksgiving? Hopefully the same as it means to cooking every day!
Wash your hands. Start cooking in a clean kitchen with clean cookware and utensils. Washing all produce before use. Checking packages for damage that would affect the integrity of the food before opening. Check the temperature of foods before serving.
Did you read that last line?
Check the temperature of foods before serving.
While many turkeys have a pop-up thermometer to indicate doneness, they are unreliable. Also, not everyone eats turkey today!
The two biggest complaints I hear when people cook meat are regarding the texture or that it’s overdone. If you have prepared it properly (ie: seasoned, tenderized if necessary) and taken it off the heat at the appropriate temperature, then it should be perfect!
When taking the temperature of foods, you want the thermometer to hit the deepest part of the dish you’re preparing and hold at the following temperature for 15 seconds:
Poultry, stuffed foods, casseroles: 165 degrees F
Ground meats and injected meats: 155 degrees F
Whole pieces: pork, beef, veal, lamb, fish: 145 degrees F
Plant foods and commercially processed foods: 135 degrees F
Reheating food: 165 degrees F
Now that you know the temperatures to prepare your foods, let’s think about that Thanksgiving spread. Often, we have the idyllic picture in our mind of the long dining table covered with food and surrounded by people but placing all our food dishes on the table actually isn’t the safest thing to do for our food safety.
Cold dishes and hot dishes both need to be kept with specific temperature ranges so that it doesn’t become a playground for bacteria to grow.
Cold dishes need to remain at 41 degrees or below. If greater than that, they need to be eaten immediately or thrown out within six hours. Hot dishes need to maintain a temperature of 135 degrees or above. If they aren’t eaten immediately, they should be thrown out within four hours.
Foodborne illness, often mislabeled as food poisoning, happens every day, from simple mistakes that can be avoided in the kitchen and symptoms aren’t always immediate—sometimes appearing up to 72 hours later.
It might sound confusing, but if you break it down to keeping yourself and your workspace clean, preparing foods according to their directions and cooking thoroughly, promptly serving food, and putting away leftovers without leaving food out for long periods of time, you should have don’t worry too much.
Spend that energy on the ones you’re with this holiday instead and thrive with them.
And if you find yourself in need of a meal today, you do not have to miss out. ChaBones (10 am-1 pm) and BlondZee’s (11am-1 pm) have free meals available at their restaurant locations.
Stephanie Lueras is a body-positive certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist and owner of Heart and Sole Fitness in Lake Havasu City. For information, visit heartandsolefit.com.