ROSEMONT, IL--(Marketwire - Nov 22, 2011) - Safe food preparation and handling are critical ingredients of every healthy, happy Thanksgiving meal whether cooked at home or in a restaurant.
"Even the best chefs, operators and cooks can become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of food preparation required to feed guests on Thanksgiving," said Jorge Hernandez, senior vice president of food safety and quality assurance, US Foods. "Proper heating and cooling of foods protects those who are dining out and cooking at home this Thanksgiving."
A bacteria called clostridium perfringens is one of the most common causes of reported foodborne illnesses in the U.S. and is usually associated with slow cooling of foods coupled with inadequate reheating.
"To manage the Thanksgiving Day crowds, some restaurant operators cook multiple turkeys and most side dishes the night before Thanksgiving to allow for fast reheating and serving on Thanksgiving Day," said Hernandez. "While efficient, it can be problematic if food is not cooled quickly and reheated thoroughly as bacteria can be present after cooking and can multiply to poisonous levels during cool down and storage."
Allowing whole turkeys and large pans of potatoes and stuffing to cool down for hours creates opportunity for rapid bacterial growth. Food must be reheated to 165 degrees to destroy the bacteria and keep diners safe.
US Foods recommends the following processes for the safe preparation, cooking, serving and storing of Thanksgiving turkeys:
- Thawing: For frozen turkey, allow 24 hours of thawing time in the refrigerator for every 4-5 pounds of turkey. Keep it in its original wrapping and on a separate tray to keep juices that may leak out from contaminating other foods. For fresh turkey, cook within two days of purchase.
- Cooking: Cook the raw turkey at 325 degrees or higher until it reaches at least 165 degrees in the thickest part of the breast, the thigh and the wing. If you have stuffing in the turkey, it must also reach 165 degrees.
- Cooling: Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before serving or cooling. If cooked in advance, the cooked turkey and other cooked foods should be cooled to 40 degrees as rapidly as possibly (four to six hours, maximum) to avoid the growth of bacteria. Using ice baths, shallow pans and allowing room for airflow around the cooling food items will help reduce bacterial growth.
- Reheating: Reheat food thoroughly to destroy any bacterial growth. Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees or until hot and steaming.
- Storage: After dinner is served, cut the leftover turkey into small pieces and store in shallow containers at 40 degrees or below in the refrigerator or 0 degrees or below in the freezer. Refrigerated leftovers should be eaten within three to four days.
These simple steps as well as thoroughly washing hands, surfaces and utensils during the cooking process will help keep families and diners safe and healthy this Thanksgiving. More food safety tips are available at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/.
About US Foods
With nearly $19 billion in annual revenue, US Foods is the 10th largest private company in America, and a leading foodservice distributor. Many of the entities that make up US Foods were founded in the 19th century, including one that sold provisions to travelers heading west during the 1850s gold rush. US Foods offers more than 350,000 national brand products and its own high-quality "exclusive brand" items, ranging from fresh meats and produce to prepared and frozen foods. The company proudly employs approximately 25,000 people in more than 60 locations nationwide, and provides the finest quality food and related products to more than 250,000 customers, including independent and multi-unit restaurants, healthcare and hospitality entities, government and educational institutions. The company is headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., and jointly owned by funds managed by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice Inc. and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. Discover more at www.usfoods.com.