As a Foodie, I am always amused and interested in the fact that many people are scared of cooking a large meal for a crowd - especially a holiday meal like Thanksgiving.  Maybe it's because I've grown up around food and food prep that I actually find it easier to serve a larger table than a smaller one.

Invariably, one of the topics that come up when I get asked questions about food prep is safety  rightly so, many people are concerned about making sure that the food they serve doesn't make their guests (or themselves) sick.

I believe that food safety comes down to a lot of common sense.  And - in reviewing a list of top food safety tips from the United States Department of Agriculture, I still have the same feelings.  Use your head and trust your gut (no pun intended) and you'll be fine.

Interested in what those Top Five Food Safety Tips are from the USDA?  Here they are:

  • Don't wash your turkey.  According to a survey from the Food and Drug Administration, 68% of people wash their turkey before cooking it.  This goes against USDA recommendations.  Washing your turkey (or any poultry for that matter) can cause threatening bacteria to spread up to 3 feet away.  Cooking - whether that's baking, broiling, frying or grilling - meat and poultry to the right temperature kills any bacteria present.  Washing is unnecessary.
  • Use the refrigerator, a cold water bath, or the microwave to thaw a frozen turkey.  Don't leave it on the counter to thaw.  A frozen turkey takes 24 hours for every 5 pounds of weight to thaw properly in a refrigerator.  A cold water bath can speed that process up, but you need to make sure you're changing that water regularly - usually every 30 minutes.  I don't personally recommend thawing it in a microwave.
  • Use a proper meat thermometer.  The safest way to know if a turkey is done is to use a proper meat thermometer.  The thermometer should register 165 in the innermost part of the thigh.  (I recommend 160 - but that's not safe according to the USDA).
  • Don't store food outside - even if it's cold.  There are two reasons for this:  unstable temperature conditions and animals.
  • Leftovers are good for up to four days in the refrigerator.  Immediately after eating on Thanksgiving, carve the remaining turkey meat off the bone and refrigerate it.

For additional food safety tips from the USDA, click here.