Safe and delicious holiday leftovers
Photo Source: UF/IFAS
For some of us, the best part of holiday eating is snacking on the leftovers. There’s just nothing better for a post-holiday lunch than a turkey sandwich with some cranberry dressing. With a little care and attention to detail, holiday foods can be safe and delicious for several days after the big event.
So, what do we all need to know about holiday food safety? Take a look below for some quick and easy tips.
Reheating foods in the oven: Set your oven temperature no lower than 325˚F and reheat to 165˚F for turkey or chicken. Reheat ham to 145˚F. You will need a meat thermometer to check the temperature. If you don’t already have one, they’re easy to find and fairly inexpensive. To keep your meat moist, add a little broth or water and cover it with foil or an oven-proof lid.
Reheating foods in the microwave: To keep your turkey or chicken moist, sprinkle a little broth or water and cover it. You won’t need a lot of extra moisture for microwave cooking. If your microwave doesn’t have a revolving tray, be sure to rotate the meat for even heating. Let it stand for a minute or two after heating, as it will continue to cook for a bit. Just like with oven reheating, use a meat thermometer and heat poultry to 165˚F, ham to 145˚F.
Storing your turkey: It may be a painful thought, but if any turkey, stuffing, or gravy gets left out at room temperature for more than two hours, it needs to be thrown away. It’s better to waste food than to risk getting sick, especially over the holidays! Divide leftovers into small portions so they will quickly and evenly cool. Store in the refrigerator or freeze in appropriate containers.
Important Tips: Use refrigerated turkey, stuffing and gravy within four days. If you freeze your leftovers, use them within six months for best taste and quality. Not sure how long something’s been in the refrigerator or freezer? The old maxim still holds true: When in doubt, throw it out.
Best wishes to you for a safe and happy holiday season!
Photo credit: UF/IFAS NW District
Rice and pasta are a staple of most family meals. But did you know these simple grains can lead to a foodborne illness? Uncooked rice and pasta can contain spores of Bacillus cereus, a bacterium that can cause foodborne illness. These spores can survive even when rice or pasta is cooked. If the rice or pasta is left standing at room temperature, like in a pot on the stove, these spores can grow into bacteria. These bacteria will then multiply and produce toxins (poisons) that can cause foodborne illness. Bacillus cereus, sometimes called B. cereus, can cause nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps.
Preventing Contamination by B. Cereus
Because B. cereus endospores are heat resistant, they are likely to survive cooking at temperatures that would destroy other foodborne pathogens. Bacillus cereus spores can grow when exposed to heat or improper handling.
Recommendations for Proper Handling of Rice and Pasta:
- Cook rice and pasta at 135ºF or above and maintain at that temperature outside of the refrigerator.
Serve rice or pasta as soon as it is cooked.
- Cool in the refrigerator at 41ºF or below within 2 hours of cooking.
- Store rice or pasta in the fridge using a shallow container or resealable bags.
- Cooked rice or pasta can be stored in airtight containers in the fridge for 3 – 5 days.
- Do not reheat rice or pasta more than once.
During the holidays, celebrations usually center around family and good food, and, therefore, our refrigerators easily can become full. We tend to leave rice or pasta out on the stove when there isn’t any room in the fridge. This is where the problem occurs. By following proper food handling techniques, you can ensure that everyone enjoys the holidays and the fabulous foods that are part of the festivities.
To learn more about Bacillus cereus or other foodborne illnesses, contact your UF/IFAS County Extension Office.
UF/IFAS Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS), Preventing Foodborne Illness: Bacillus cereus
The Number of Food Poisoning Cases Caused by Bacillus cereus is on the Rise. (2015, April 1). Infection Control Today. Retrieved from https://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/food-safety/number-food-poisoning-cases-caused-bacillus-cereus-rise
Flour is considered a raw ingredient so bake before eating. Photo credit: Judy Corbus
There is something about cooler weather that brings out the urge to bake and fill my home with delightful aromas befitting the season. Enjoying the fruits of my labor is a tasty experience but here are 8 tips I follow during prep and afterwards to keep my baked goods safe.
- Wash my hands, baking tools, appliances, and work surfaces with soap and hot water before, during, and after food prep – clean as I go!
- Break eggs in a separate bowl before adding to the batter. This keeps shell fragments out of the batter and, if the egg is spoiled, I don’t ruin the whole project.
- Never eat unbaked flour – this includes dough and batter. Flour is considered a raw ingredient, as it is minimally processed before being packaged for use. Wheat stalks in the field come in contact with birds, rodents, and other bacteria sources, which can spread E. Coli. Raw eggs can contain salmonella so bake foods to the proper internal temperature and resist the urge to lick the bowl, spoons, and beaters.
- Use a food thermometer to check internal temperatures – a brown crust does not equal doneness. Insert the probe food thermometer in the product center and wait for the temperature to maintain a level reading. This Baked Goods Internal Temperatures Chart is a handy guide for determining internal doneness. If the outside is browned but it’s not done in the middle, lay foil lightly over the crust to prevent overbrowning and continue baking until the proper internal temperature is reached.
- Always refrigerate perishable ingredients, pies, cheese-filled breads or baked goods with perishable filling ingredients (this includes eggs, custards, cheese, pizza, meats, casseroles, cream pies, puddings, and crème puffs) within 2 hours of use, preparation, or serving at room temperature. Cookie, scone, biscuit, pie, and yeasted dough may be refrigerated or frozen for later use.
- Cool baked products on clean wire cooling racks on a clean counter or table away from where raw batter or dough are prepared. Don’t cool in the baking pans or directly on counter tops.
- Wash my hands before packaging cooled products.
- Store plain yeast breads at room temperature no longer than 1 to 2 days; freeze for longer term storage. Do not refrigerate unless the bread is filled with perishable ingredients.
Enjoy your favorite baked treats safely this holiday season and beyond!
Sources: Home Baking Food Safety 101
What’s Cooking America
North American Millers Association
You can’t tell by looking if your food is done cooking. Using a food thermometer not only ensures your food is properly cooked to reduce the risk of harmful bacteria, but it also prevents overcooking. Check out this video for more information:
Is It Done Yet – Brochure
Proper Thermometer Placement – USDA placement
You have your frozen turkey. Now what? Plan ahead to be sure your bird is safe and ready to cook. Do not thaw your frozen turkey on the counter. All parts of the turkey must be kept at a safe temperature during the thawing process and cooked immediately after thawing. Use one or a combination of the following recommended methods:
Thaw your turkey safely. Photo Credit: Kendra Zamojski
Keep the turkey in the original wrapper, placing on a tray to catch any leaking juices. Allow approximately 24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds. For example, a 12-16-pound turkey may take 3 to 4 days to thaw. A properly thawed turkey will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days before cooking.
Thawing In Cold Water
Keep the turkey in the original wrapper and place in a larger sealed, leak-proof plastic bag. Submerge in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes, until thawed. Allow 30 minutes per pound, so a 12- to 16-pound turkey would take 6-8 hours to thaw. A properly thawed turkey can be stored in the refrigerator.
When it’s Ready to Cook
When the turkey is ready to cook, don’t rinse it. You could splash salmonella and other bacteria around your kitchen. Cook your turkey to the proper temperature. Use a food thermometer to be sure the inner thigh, the inner wing, and the thickest part of the turkey breast are all cooked to at least 165°F.
For more information, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.
UF/IFAS: Food Safety Tips for the Holiday Season
USDA: Let’s Talk Turkey
USDA: Tips and Resources for a Bacteria-Free Thanksgiving
Most foods freeze well. Pancakes are easy to make ahead and freeze for later use. Photo Credit: Kendra Zamojski
You get home after a busy day and now it’s time to figure out what to make for dinner. You open the pantry and the refrigerator in a search for something to make for dinner. Maybe you can’t find the right ingredients or you don’t feel like cooking, so you pick up the phone to order delivery. A little planning ahead, could help you save money and make healthier choices.
Meals that you can make ahead and freeze are great to have on hand for use on busy days. According to the USDA, most foods can be frozen. Canned foods and shell eggs should not be frozen. This is because liquid expands when frozen and can cause shelled eggs and metal cans or glass jars to crack or break. Instead, remove canned foods from metal cans before freezing. To freeze eggs, beat together yolk and whites for better quality; egg whites can be frozen separately. Some foods don’t freeze well like mayonnaise, cream sauces, and lettuce. These exceptions aside, make ahead meals are easy to freeze and convenient to have on hand.
Cooking ahead doesn’t need to be complicated. Start freezing leftovers for later use or try doubling recipes when you are already cooking. Soups, stews, chili, casseroles, sloppy joes, and taco filling are easy recipes to experiment with batch cooking. Freeze in airtight plastic or glass containers or freezer safe bags or packaging. If you freeze foods in glass or plastic containers, leave 1-2 inches of head space between the food and the lid to allow room for expansion. Use labels to identify the frozen products, including the date and any cooking instructions. Store food in the quantities that you want to use for later. For example, whole casseroles can be reheated for family meals or soups and stews can be stored in single-serving quantities for quick and easy lunches. Freeze quickly for the best quality and to reduce freezer burn.
When it’s time to thaw, plan ahead. Do not thaw foods on the counter. Cook frozen foods immediately after thawing. Use one of the following recommended methods:
- Refrigerator: Small quantities can thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Larger quantities may take a day or two.
- Water method: Place in a sealed, leak-proof plastic bag and submerge in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes, until thawed.
- Microwave defrosting: Defrosting in the microwave can cause some parts of the food to start cooking. Be sure to cook foods immediately after thawing.
- Cooking from a frozen state: Casseroles and other prepared foods can be cooked from a frozen state. Plan for extra cooking time by adding 15 to 30 minutes to the cooking time. Use a food thermometer to be sure it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Never place a frozen dish in a hot, pre-heated oven.This could cause the dish to crack or break.
If you enjoy experimenting with batch cooking, there are a lot of great resources for make ahead recipes and weekly meal plans. For more information, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office: http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/find-your-local-office/
Freezing and Food Safety: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/cce745c9-0fc9-4ce6-a50c-84363e5b5a48/Freezing_and_Food_Safety.pdf?MOD=AJPERES
Make Ahead Freezer Meals to the Rescue: https://extension.psu.edu/make-ahead-freezer-meals-to-the-rescue
Freezing Food for Multiple Meals: https://www.ksre.k-state.edu/humannutrition/nutrition-topics/eatingwell-budget/makeaheadmeals.html