Be aware of food safety this Christmas

CHRISTMAS is the season for friends, family, food and good times so Magherafelt District Council is providing the following advice to make sure you have a safe and tasty festive season.

If you are buying a Christmas turkey, buy it as close to Christmas as possible, bring it straight home and store it in the fridge as soon as possible. If you are buying a frozen turkey put it into the freezer without delay and keep it there until you are ready to defrost it.

Remember to store any raw meat and poultry on the bottom shelf of the fridge to prevent meat juices from dripping onto other foods and spreading germs around the fridge. Don’t wash your turkey, this can spread germs to your sink and kitchen surfaces.

Defrosting

Make sure your turkey is fully defrosted before cooking. You’ll know it is completely thawed when the body is soft, the legs can be moved and there are no ice crystals inside the cavity. The safest way to defrost your turkey is on the bottom of the fridge on a plate or tray to catch melt water.

It will take at least 24 hours to defrost every 2-2.5kg of turkey, so make sure you allow enough time – it could take three days to defrost a 7.5kg (16.5lbs) turkey.

Cooking Your Turkey

To cook your turkey to perfection remember to handle your turkey as little as possible. Thoroughly wash your hands and any surfaces that come in contact with raw turkey.

Pre-heat your electric fan assisted oven to 180°C and place the turkey breast up on a roasting tray. If you are stuffing your bird, loosely pack the stuffing (weighing no more than 10% of the bird) in the cavity. It is not recommended that the cavity of the turkey is stuffed if your oven is not an electric fan-assisted oven.

Cover the turkey with foil and baste it every hour. Remove the foil for the last half hour to brown the skin.

Allow the turkey to rest for half an hour before carving, covering it with foil during this time.

Before serving ensure the turkey is piping hot, there are no pink bits and the juices run clear when the thickest part of the leg and breast meat are pierced with a fork.

Leftovers

As with any food it is important that the leftovers are handled in a safe manner. They should be cooled as quickly as possible. Put them in the fridge within two hours of cooking and use leftovers within three days.

Always reheat thoroughly until piping hot and never reheat food more than once.

Top Tips to Keep Your Food Safe

Put away chilled and frozen food in your fridge or freezer as soon as you can; prepare and store raw and cooked food separately; keep the coldest part of the fridge at 0-5°C; check ‘Use By’ Dates; keep pets away from food, dishes and worktops; wash your hands thoroughly; keep the kitchen clean; vulnerable groups should avoid raw or partially cooked eggs and dishes containing them; make sure food is fully cooked and keep hot food hot and cold food cold.

Further advice on food safety can be obtained from Magherafelt District Council Environmental Health Department on 028 79397979 or from the Food Standards Agency Website www.food.gov.uk.