Ask Dr. Nandi: Food safety concerns to know before you prepare holiday meals

Posted at 5:27 PM, Nov 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-21 20:44:54-05

Many of you will likely be serving salad and a beautifully roasted turkey for Thanksgiving.  And as you prepare the main meal, food safety should be at the top of your list.  

Question: When it comes to salmonella and romaine lettuce, are there any tips or tricks to get rid of it?

You can’t get rid of salmonella by rinsing the lettuce.  It doesn’t matter if it’s doubled or tripled washed.  And don’t bother trying vinegar or baking soda.  Those won’t work either.   Bacteria can hide in crevices so tiny you’d need a microscope to see them.  Before you start any preparations, make sure you have clean hands.  Be sure to wash produce first before you cut, cook and eat it.  You don’t need any fancy soaps or detergents - running water works best. Drying with a clean cloth might help to get rid of some bacteria BUT, don’t do this with romaine lettuce.  That you need toss out.  And be sure to wipe clean the area where you stored the romaine lettuce.

Question: If you have a frozen turkey, what’s the safest method to thaw it?  

Some people think nothing of thawing a turkey on the kitchen counter, in the basement or the garage.  But none of these are recommended.  Turkey should be thawed in the fridge where the temperature is stable.  And it should sit in a leak-proof bag or container in cold water that you change every 30 minutes.  Now thawing a turkey can take days.  But don’t panic if you haven’t started yet.  You can also safely thaw your turkey in the microwave.  Just be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  

Question: When it comes to safely handling and cooking a turkey, you have some prescriptions for us?

Partha’s RX

1.     Don’t wash your turkey before cooking, unless it was brined.  Rinsing could splatter bacteria up to 3 feet around your sink area.  

2.     Wash your hands thoroughly after handling the turkey.  And clean any kitchen surfaces the turkey may have touched with hot soapy water. 

3.     If you’re stuffing the turkey, do so right before you pop it in the oven.   

4.     The turkey and the stuffing inside must be cooked to 165° F.  Otherwise bacteria could survive so please use a food thermometer.