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Will You Be Food Safety Aware for the Holidays?

Did you know that unattended cooking is the leading cause of home cooking fires? Unfortunately, we get distracted by the sheer magnitude and myriad details involved with preparing that one BIG meal of the year, that's it's not as hard as we might think to let a pot boil dry or worse.

Although I've gone to an induction cooktop - which is safer in many respects - when I still had the gas cooktop I had a Rule: Never, ever lay paper, kitchen towels or anything flammable on that cooktop. Ever. A burner could accidentally or unintentionally ignite, and the rest would be about filing an insurance claim.

But, there are other dangers lurking. Pot handles hanging out and waiting to get bumped. Frying food like that Thanksgiving turkey requires absolute attention. That's not the time to try multi-tasking. In fact, I just have another Rule: Either cook or turn it off and go do the other thing. Not both. Ever. There's no phone call, or game play that's worth it. Nothing puts a damper on the fun like having to run for the fire extinguisher.

Then, there are the candles on the table. But, has a great Toolkit and resources for keeping your home and kitchen safer. Make use of them.

Besides fire safety, there's basic food safety to consider. It was tradition back-in-the-day to cook stuffing inside the turkey cavity. Most food safety experts don't recommend that any longer. It's just too easy to leave that turkey sitting out, and allow bacteria to start growing. There are ways of roasting a turkey with the stuffing in the cavity safely, and you should understand how. Generally, you should stuff the cavity loosely, moist stuffing is safer than dry, only stuff poultry that will be roasted (not fried or microwaved, for example), don't let the stuffed, prepared turkey it out on the countertop. Put it in the oven immediately. It's recommended that you do NOT use temperatures lower than 325 degrees. Use a food thermometer. When you remove the roasted turkey, let it stand for 20 minutes, and then remove all the stuffing from the cavity for serving. Finally, refrigerate it all within two hours after serving.

One of the good things about being WFPB (Whole-food, Plant-based) is that I no longer need to worry about the bacteria -like Campylobacter and Salmonella- that poultry harbors.

Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control offer handy online resources to keep you and yours safe from preventable foodborne illness. Thawing that frozen turkey out is where a lot of cooks go wrong, right at the start.

And, remember that your pets probably don't need to be chewing on those leftover turkey bones.

Have a wonderful, safe holiday!

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