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Krug offers tips for holiday food safety
Early planning best for holiday success
Donna Krug

With the Thanksgiving holiday almost upon us, a little bit of advance planning and some holiday cooking caution may be the perfect recipe for avoiding extra headaches during holiday gatherings.

“An offer to host a holiday meal need not add unnecessary stress to your life,” said K-State Extension Cottonwood District Consumer and Family Science Agent Donna Krug. “From purchasing the turkey to handling the leftovers, there are some good rules to follow.”

An important place to begin, Krug notes, is making sure you purchase the correct amount of food when preparing for your holiday meal.

With possible supply issues looming at stores, and a little over a week and a half until Thanksgiving, Krug said early planning is additionally crucial this year for holiday success.

“My advice to consumers is to set your menu soon and begin (now) purchasing the ingredients for the dishes you are planning to prepare,” Krug said. “If fresh ingredients are not available, you may have to look for frozen or canned options.”

In particular, with the traditional Thanksgiving centerpiece, the turkey, Krug recommends one pound per person being served for bone-in turkey. If more white meat is desired, she said, consider buying a larger turkey or turkey breast.

In order to thaw the turkey prior to cooking, Krug said it is best to do so on a shallow pan or baking sheet in the refrigerator, not at room temperature, and to allow one day of thawing time for each 4-5 pounds of turkey.

To cook, Krug said, set the oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, and allow 20 minutes per pound, adding an additional 45 minutes if the turkey is stuffed. For safety, she said make sure the turkey is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, then let the turkey set for an additional 15-20 minutes after that. Because of the length of cooking time, Krug said, it is not necessary to preheat the oven.

If you are planning on a different main course for Thanksgiving, however, K-State Food Scientist Karen Blakeslee recommends the following internal temperatures:

• 145 degrees Fahrenheit for all beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, roasts and chops;

• 145 degrees Fahrenheit for fish and seafood;

• 160 degrees Fahrenheit for ground meat.

A meat’s “doneness” can never be judged by its color or appearance, Blakeslee added.

For safety, Krug also said it is best to remove the remainder of the meat from the carcass immediately following the meal, and store it separately from the rest of the meat if planning on using it for a soup stock later.

However, the turkey is not the only consideration in meal planning.

To ensure the entire meal is ready on time, Krug divides menu items into three categories: Make-ahead items, stove-top items, and side dishes such as salad, relish tray or vegetable casserole that other guests may be bringing.

She said having other guests bring side dishes can also reduce your headache, as well.

“Sharing meal preparations not only reduces holiday meal costs for the host, but also shares the pleasure of preparing a meal for family and friends,” Krug said.

After the meal is done, she recommends not storing refrigerated leftovers for more than three days. If not used in that time, “they should be wrapped, labeled, and dated before being frozen for a future meal. If well wrapped, cooked turkey generally freezes well for 3-4 months.”

With pies, she said, storage depends on the type of pie.

“A pumpkin pie, which is a custard-style pie containing eggs, should be covered and refrigerated,” she said. “Leftover fruit pie, which typically is prepared without eggs, can be covered and stored on the counter. For best quality, refrigerate.”

When reheating leftovers, Krug said it is recommended to only reheat what you will eat at that meal, not the whole dish, and to reheat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

With people eager to gather again for the holidays after a year of diminished holiday celebrations, Krug also recommends not losing sight of healthy meal planning, especially when it comes to holiday meals.

“Finding recipes that limit added sugar and fat is a good goal,” Krug said. “You may (also) have guests at your holiday table who have food allergies or are dealing with a chronic illness. Find out ahead of time what those issues are so you can plan accordingly.”