The Division of Public Health recently offered tips to help Delawareans safely prepare holiday foods.

The Division of Public Health recently offered tips to help Delawareans safely prepare holiday foods.

Residents can help reduce the risk of contracting or spreading food-borne illnesses by:

— Always using soap and warm water to wash hands.

— Thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing the sink, cutting boards, utensils and anything else that comes in contact with raw meats and their juices.

— Using separate utensils and cutting boards for meats and ready-to-eat foods such as vegetables and cooked poultry.

— Washing fruits and vegetables before eating.

— Cooking all meats and eggs thoroughly to kill bacteria.

— Refrigerating leftovers promptly. Do not leave food at room temperature for extended periods of time.

When it comes to hosting any gathering where foods are served buffet style, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration shared tips. Hot foods should be kept at an internal temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. Use a food thermometer to check. Serve or keep food hot in chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays. Be aware that some warmers only hold food at 110-120 F, so check the product label to make sure the warmer has the capability to hold foods at 140 F or warmer.

Cold foods should be kept at 40 F or colder. Keep cold foods refrigerated until serving time. If food is going to stay out on the buffet table longer than two hours, place plates of cold food on ice to retain the chill.

Don't add new food to an already-filled serving dish. Instead, replace nearly-empty serving dishes with freshly-filled ones. Be aware that during the course of the party, bacteria from people's hands can contaminate the food. Bacteria can multiply at room temperature.

Remember the two-hour rule. Discard any perishables left out at room temperature for more than two hours, unless the food is being kept hot or cold

If there are plans to buy a fresh turkey, purchase it only one to two days prior to cooking and make sure it remains refrigerated until ready to cook. Avoid fresh pre-stuffed turkeys because bacteria can grow in the stuffing. Be sure to have a roasting pan large enough to hold the turkey and a food thermometer. In the refrigerator, allow about 24 hours per 4-5 pounds of turkey. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for one or two days. Under cold running water, 70 F or less, submerge the turkey under running water in the original wrapper and cook immediately after thawing; do not refreeze. In the microwave, remove outside wrapping and place the turkey on a microwave-safe dish. Do not refreeze or refrigerate after thawing in the microwave.

Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey, preferably in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 F throughout the bird. Do not depend on the color of the meat to determine if the bird is thoroughly cooked. The meat of smoked turkey is always pink. Any turkey, stuffing or gravy needs refrigeration within two hours of cooking. Use separate shallow containers. Use leftover turkey and stuffing within seven days or freeze the foods. Reheat thoroughly to a temperature of 165 F or until hot and steaming.

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