Reviewed by Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN
Published December 16, 2016
Share the Gift of Home Food Safety This Season
Enjoying food with family and friends is one of the highlights of the holiday
season and while everyone wants to join in to help, too many cooks in
the kitchen can result in an increased risk of food poisoning.
Here are 10 tips to avoid common kitchen blunders when preparing meals,
buffets and even homemade food gifts this holiday season.
10 Tips for Holiday Home Food Safety
- Wash hands before, during and after food preparation. Proper hand washing
may eliminate a large percentage of food poisoning cases. Remember to
wash hands when switching tasks, such as handling raw meat and then cutting
- Keep kitchen surfaces such as appliances, countertops, cutting boards and
utensils clean throughout meal preparation with hot, soapy water.
- Always use two cutting boards: one for raw meat, poultry and fish and the
other for ready-to-eat foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Make it easy
to remember by using color-coded cutting boards, one for raw meats and
one for ready-to-eat foods.
- Use separate spoons and forks to taste, stir and serve food.
- Use a food thermometer. It is the only reliable way to determine the doneness
of your food and ensure that food is cooked to proper temperatures. (Do
not rely on "clear juices" to tell that the turkey is done.)
- Refrigerate food within two hours of serving to prevent the growth of harmful
bacteria that can lead to food poisoning. This is especially important
when serving buffets.
- Use a refrigerator thermometer and make sure it's set at below 40°F.
- Never allow foods to defrost at room temperature, on the counter or in
warm water. Defrost food only in the refrigerator or in the microwave.
When defrosting food in the refrigerator, remember to cover raw meat and
place it on the bottom shelf so juices won't drip onto other foods.
When defrosting food in the microwave, cook it immediately afterward.
- If taking food to parties, make sure to observe the same safety habits
as at home — keep foods well-refrigerated and cook them to proper
- When baking, avoid eating foods containing raw eggs such as cookie dough
or cake batter. Raw eggs may contain harmful bacteria that can lead to
Joy to the Leftovers
Holiday meals often bring leftovers. Follow these tips to make sure you
don't get sick the second time around.
- Store leftovers in shallow containers (2 inches deep or less).
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within 2 hours of cooking the food.
- Remove turkey from the bone and store it separately from the stuffing and
gravy. Slice breast meat; legs and wings may be left whole.
- Use turkey within 3 to 4 days; stuffing and gravy within 1 to 2 days.
- Reheat leftovers to 165°F.
- When in doubt, throw it out!
Kitchen Safety Checklist to ensure your kitchen is ready with the tools and resources you need
before the big event.
The Holiday Helper Tip sheet in a printable format.
Reviewed November 2016