The holidays are here, and it is time to think about turkey and all the fix-in's. For most Arkansans, Thanksgiving is a time for family, food, and football. We will gather with our family and eat way too much and enjoy spending time together. Taking a few precautions can prevent our family time from becoming sick time.
The top four food safety tips can be easily remembered with these four words: clean, separate, cook and chill. While these four words should be applied all year long to keep our food safe, they are even more important for our holiday get-togethers.
Clean -- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm or cold water before, during and after preparing food and before eating. This is especially important after handling uncooked meat, chicken and other poultry, seafood, flour, and eggs. Countertops, cutting boards, and utensils should be washed with hot soapy water after preparing each food. Rinse your fresh fruits and vegetables under cold running water.
Separate -- Prevent cross-contamination by keeping raw meat, seafood, eggs, and poultry separate from ready-to-eat food. Store raw or marinating meats in the refrigerator in sealed containers away from other foods. Avoid spreading germs by using different cutting boards.
Cook -- Use a food thermometer to make sure food is cooked to an internal temperature high enough to kill germs. Color and texture are not accurate for determining if food is safe except for seafood. When reheating foods, make sure they reach 165 degrees whether in the microwave, on the stovetop or in the oven. A chart for food internal temperatures is available at https://bit.ly/3O3KT6v.
Chill -- Bacteria can multiply rapidly if left at room temperature or in the "Danger Zone" between 40 degrees and 140 degrees.
• Keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees or below and your freezer at zero degrees or below, and know when to throw food out before it spoils. If your refrigerator doesn't have a built-in thermometer, keep an appliance thermometer inside it to check the temperature.
• Package warm or hot food into several clean, shallow containers and then refrigerate. It is OK to put small portions of hot food in the refrigerator since they will chill faster.
• Refrigerate perishable food (meat, seafood, dairy, cut fruit, some vegetables, and cooked leftovers) within two hours. If the food is exposed to temperatures above 90 degrees, like a hot car or picnic, refrigerate it within one hour.
• Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Never thaw food on the counter because bacteria multiply quickly in the parts of the food that reach room temperature.
There are several 4-H clubs for Garland County young people who are 5 to 19 years old. For more information on all the fun 4-H activities that are available, call Carol Ann McAfee at the Extension Office at 501-623-6841 or email her at [email protected].
Master Gardener information
Master Gardener meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month at the Elks Lodge. Meetings are open to the public and guests are welcome. For more information, call Luke Duffle at 501-623-6841 or email [email protected].
Interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For more information on EHC, call Alison Crane, family and consumer sciences agent, at 501-623-6841 or email her at [email protected].