Now that thanksgiving is nearly here, there are a few things that we need to keep in mind. Sometimes with all the family present and the confusion of so many people working in the kitchen it can be easy to lose track of time and allow food to sit out longer than two hours.
Remember that food should be refrigerated as soon as possible after the meal is served. Ideally, we want food to be either hot (above 140°F) or cold (below 40°F) within two hours of being served. Set a timer or an alert on your phone or watch to help you remember. The concern is that bacteria, which grow exponentially at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F, will grow to a level that may sicken someone that eats that food. Bacteria love the foods that we typically serve at thanksgiving.
It is important to understand that the first people that get sick from food poisoning will be the very young, the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women. In most of our families, those people are pretty special to us.
Now that you are thinking about refrigerating the food to keep it safe, follow these simple tips.
- Don’t be tempted to store the food outside or in the garage. Even on days below zero, a sunny day can warm the food to unsafe levels
- If you are afraid to put warm food directly into the refrigerator, cool it in a pan sitting in a sink full of cold water. Stir the pot occasionally. You will be surprised at how quickly foods cool off.
- Package the food into smaller containers. Small containers cool quickly. Place the containers on different shelves and allow as much room as possible for air circulation around the containers.
- Consider freezing some of your leftovers if you won’t be able to use them within 5 days. Remember that you have 3-5 days to use up leftovers. If you wait 3 or 4 days before you freeze the leftovers, then you will need to use them the same day you thaw the leftovers.
Remember to enjoy this time with family and friends and have a safe thanksgiving.