Don’t let the hours spent on Thanksgiving dinner prep be for nothing by cutting food safety corners.
A recent survey found that nearly two-thirds of Americans disregard United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines for safe food prep, putting their Thanksgiving diners at risk.
Foodborne pathogens sicken about one in six Americans annually, of which 128,000 will end up in the hospital and 6,000 will die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That’s despite the fact that more than 70% of Americans claim to cook most days of the week, per the new poll by CouponBirds — which further reveals that many clean cooking myths persist.
Read on to learn more about the sanitation steps you may be missing in your holiday dining routine.
Should you wash your turkey before cooking?
The survey of 1,000 American adults showed that more than three in five (62.3%) people “always” wash their meat before cooking, and 4.7% wash it “if it looks like it needs it.”
For fish and seafood, 65% of respondents always wash before cooking and 14% wash “sometimes” or “if it looks like it needs it.”
A majority of people (52.9%) admitted they wash their food before cooking to “wash off unpleasant bits,” while others wanted to get rid of “any meat juices” (33.9%) or had concerns as to where it had been before they bought it (27.3%).
In this case, a majority of respondents were wrong: per the USDA, washing raw meat, fish and poultry help spread germs across the kitchen by covering the sink area with its juices, increasing the odds of cross-contamination with other foods, utensils and hands.
How often should you wash your hands while cooking?
One in five people admitted to not washing their hands “some or most of the time” before they cook.
Results found that men were more likely to skip this step than women by 5.2%, and 35 to 44-year-olds were the least likely to wash their hands prior to cooking (28.5%).
Meanwhile, more than half of respondents wash their hands while cooking in between each ingredient.
The survey found that 89.5% of those cooking for Thanksgiving prepared at least one meat dish, which suggests that about 28.7 million turkeys are at an increased risk of contamination due to the way it’s prepared.
To prevent cross-contamination and reduce the risk of spreading bacteria, the USDA advises people to wash their hands before starting the food prep and after handling raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs, even if they wore gloves.
How long can I keep my Thanksgiving leftovers?
One of the best parts of Thanksgiving is the leftovers to follow for days — though not too many days, experts advise.
The USDA recommends storing Thanksgiving leftovers in shallow containers in the refrigerator until the following Monday or Tuesday (4 days) or directly into the freezer for leftovers later on.
For many, the second helping of Thanksgiving dinner is as hotly anticipated as the first — but don’t let the dishes liner for long. Perishable items should be refrigerated within two hours of coming out of the oven or refrigerator. After two hours, perishable foods enter the “danger zone” and should be discarded if it’s been left out.
If reheating in the oven, make sure the leftovers reach a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Sauces, soups and gravies can be reheated by bringing them to a simmer.
Microwaving leftovers is slightly more complicated: The food should be arranged evenly in a microwave-safe dish and should be covered and rotated for even heating. Liquid can be added if needed, and it’s important to check the internal temperature in several places due to microwaves’ cold spots.