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Little ChefLittle Chef Posts: 4,725
edited 6:56AM in EggHead Forum
(Long but IMPORTANT read!)

With the Holiday Season upon us, I wanted to take a few minutes to provide some reminders and concerns regarding safe food handling. The Holidays are all about enjoying family, friends, and of course these gatherings tend to revolve around food. Hopefully these reminders and outlines will help keep everyone’s Holidays free of food borne illness. Though this post focuses on turkey safety, please realize the holding times and guidelines for reheating applies to all food items.

For those of you who may not know me, or what I do for a living, I am the Executive Chef for an International Culinary Consulting and Educational Corporation. I work with large resorts and cruise ships, down to Mom & Pop sized restaurants to educate staff and enforce these standards to ensure the safety of patrons. I also have in excess of 16 years working in restaurants and resorts directly related to food service and food handling. These guidelines are provided by the FDA, USDA, and CDC, and are mandated practice in any and all reputable dining establishments.

There are two major bacterium we must concern ourselves with at Thanksgiving time….Salmonella, and Campylobacter Jejuni. These are the two leading causes of Food borne Illness in the United States. The leading culprit carrying these bacterium is poultry…with an astounding 40-100% of domestic raised poultry carrying C. Jejuni at slaughter (provided by the CDC). The leading cause for contracting C Jejuni among humans is undercooked poultry.

The minimum safe temperature required to eliminate these bacterium in your bird is 165*. I also admit, carryover cooking does occur…so if you are skilled with temperatures and carryover cooking, by all means, cook your bird as you see fit. For others, 165* is the critical temperature that must be reached in the cooking process. If you stuff your bird, the internal temp of 165*F must be achieved throughout the stuffing as well! (As a note, thighs and legs are always better in the 185*+ range….which is part of the challenge to cooking a whole bird without drying out your breast meat. However, even meat that appears undercooked or still pink IS safe to eat as long as the temperature reached at least 165* per the USDA). Also please note, the USDA does not recommend cooking turkey at any temperature less than 325*F to hasten death of bacteria in poultry.

I believe we have all heard of “The Danger Zone” of foods. The Danger zone is a range of temperatures in which conditions are conducive to allow for rapid multiplication of bacteria, which can cause a food borne illness. This Danger Zone is from 41*-140* F.
Food should NOT be held in this zone for any longer than 4 HOURS. Once 4 hours has passed, food must be refrigerated and chilled as rapidly as possible to halt the growth of harmful bacteria. To provide you with a hypothetical example: You have removed the turkey from your Egg, and parts range from 165* to 185*F. You wrap the turkey, and place it in a warmed cooler for transport. The internal temperature of the turkey must be monitored. Once 140*F in the coolest part is reached, the 4 hour danger zone clock has begun ticking. At the end of 4 hours, this product must be immediately refrigerated, or reheated quickly to 165*F minimum.

To achieve rapid chilling, warm foods should be placed into a refrigerated environment UNcovered to allow for a faster exchange of cold air and warm air. Once the food is chilled, it can be sealed or covered properly so it does not dry out, or pick up off flavors from any odors that may exist in the fridge. Remember….the goal is to get the food out of the danger zone as quickly as possible, and rapid chilling is a key to making this happen!

Understand the Danger Zone applies when reheating foods as well. Foods being reheated should be reheated as quickly as possible. Bring ALL reheated foods to a minimum of 165* F throughout, for a minimum of two (2) minutes before serving. Temperatures should be taken from the center of the item. (Cold leftovers out of the fridge are safe to eat as is provided your refrigerator is working properly maintaining temps of 40*F or less.)

I have heard the argument that food is “sterilized” during the cooking process. Certain bacteria are killed at certain temperatures, but in no way can the meat be considered ‘sterile’. There are still anaerobic bacteria that survive the cooking process, such as Staph, E.Coli, or Salmonella, but are kept within safe levels, provided the food is not within the “danger zone”. Once within the danger zone however, these bacteria are in a prime environment for multiplying, which can cause a food related illness. For example, one surviving C. Jejuni or Salmonella bacterium can multiply to several million in 8 hours, and thousands of millions within 12 hours. Bacteria are always present in meat, even after cooking. But the bacteria levels are held at bay, provided temperatures exceed 140*. So as a final example, you carve the turkey, and when placed on the table it is still good and hot…..say 130*. After 6 hours on the table, that meat has spent hours in the danger zone, allowing those bacteria to multiply. That tempting plate of turkey sitting there for 6 hours, now contains literally millions of bacteria….certainly enough to cause a food related illness. Please be aware how dramatic the result can be if food is not handled properly.

I hope the above reminders and guidelines help to keep you and your families safe during the upcoming holidays. And remember….”When in doubt, throw it out”.

(Note: Post edited 7/10 to change danger zone time from 2 to 4 hours.)


  • RVHRVH Posts: 523
    I was cooking chicken last night and thought my wife was going overboard on "clean". I think I owe her an apology. As one who has food-poisoned himself once, with chicken, ( "It only looks a LITTLE raw, so it will be okay I'll bet!) by not cooking it enough, I can tell you that is something I never want to repeat.
    Thanks for posting this. I'm going to save it to my files.
  • MickeyMickey Posts: 16,893
    Thank you. Very good and very timely post.
    If it only saves me, your time was worth it. :)
    Salado TX Egg Family: 2 Large and a very well used Mini, just added a Mini Max (I'm good for now). 

  • Little ChefLittle Chef Posts: 4,725
    RVH....Sorry to hear about the prior mishap!! :sick: Unfortunately it only takes once! :blink: Thanks for taking the time to read this, and the time to reply as well. Have a safe and happy Holiday. :)
  • Little ChefLittle Chef Posts: 4,725
    Exactly! ;) Thanks for taking the time to read it. :)
  • So can I put stuffing in the bird like my grandma used to?
  • Little ChefLittle Chef Posts: 4,725
    You can put stuffing in your bird like your Grandma sure the bird is very clean and dry inside before stuffing, and stuff at the last minute. Also remember, the stuffing inside the bird must reach 165* throughout the cavity.
    I do not recommend this practice however. By the time the stuffing has reached a safe temperature, the bird will likely be well overcooked. A caserole dish is always a safer option.... :)
  • Muchas Gracias :)
  • WWSisWWSis Posts: 1,448
    Wow, thanks so much for taking the time to share this with us! Timely and helpful information. I have heard the warnings, but never the specifics...I've also saved it to my files. ;)
  • HossHoss Posts: 14,587
    Wonderful information.Thank you for taking the time to post it for us. :)
  • Little ChefLittle Chef Posts: 4,725
    WWSis...Thanks for taking the time to read the post. ;) Thought it was appropriate for this week....and thanks for the reply. ;)
  • Little ChefLittle Chef Posts: 4,725
    Mr Loney Man....You are more than welcome! ;) Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and hope all is well. ;)
  • loco_engrloco_engr Posts: 3,673
    Agreed, lots of info that I didn't know.

    I think Hoss would still be typing all that with his one good finger!
    :lol: :lol:
  • HossHoss Posts: 14,587
    Back at ya! ;) All the best to you and yours! :)
  • HossHoss Posts: 14,587
    I might coulda got it done in time for Thanksgiving .....NEXT YEAR!!! :laugh:
  • thanks LC for the time you put into this post.. as a science nerd it makes me happy to see research supported advice.. and as someone "food poisoned" by resaurant salmon last winter i hope everyone reads and heeds your warning..
  • Thanks LC.

    Couple followup questions if you don't mind.

    I have gotten into the habit of cleaning up cutting boards, sinks, knives, hands, etc. with a cap full of bleach in a spray bottle after handling any sort of poultry. Am I taking cleanliness too far? Is a cap full in a quart spray bottle enough? Should I do the same after handling other raw meats?

    After marinating pork in a marinade yesterday, I took the left over marinade and boiled it for 30 minutes and then put it in the freezer to use again - is this an okay practice?

    Thanks for the info.
  • Plumbr44Plumbr44 Posts: 212
    Food safety can effect us all... Poor fellah..

  • Little ChefLittle Chef Posts: 4,725
    LOL!! Trust wasn't a 5 minute type for me, either!!! :woohoo: ;) Happy and safe holiday loco!
  • Little ChefLittle Chef Posts: 4,725
    bill...thanks so much for the feedback. If this post reminds one person....and keeps one person from getting is worth the efforts. ;)
  • thanks Michelle for taking the time and concern to remind everyone of these important food safety points. Very good timing as I'll bet Thanksgiving is the most likely time for cooked food to sit out too long - waiting to be leftovers for supper...

    Have a great Thanksgiving!
  • Little ChefLittle Chef Posts: 4,725
    Frank...No such thing as taking cleanliness too far, and no, I don't mind the questions at all....

    A correct ratio for bleach/water for sanitation is 2/3 cup bleach: 1 gallon water. If you mix in a gallon jug, be sure the jug is capped tightly, or you will lose the potency of the mix. (there really is no such thing as too much bleach provided the boards are rinsed thoroghly!!) In the industry, we will often mix a potent mix and soak boards overnight (provided they are NSF and non porous boards...which can take the aggressive treatment).

    And sorry here...but....reusing a marinade....I give you a resounding NO! :pinch: The same rules apply here as with meats. Boiling does not "sterilize", it just boils. It kills the majority of bacterium, but not all...and it only takes one to multiply and ruin a good night of sleep. If you choose to use a marinade as a sauce for grilling, set it aside BEfore you marinate the meat, then use it for your baste. But saving for later use, after meat has been introduced, is not at all a safe practice. Please toss what's in the freezer....a few pennies of ingredients is not worth a night of...well...we all know... :blink: :pinch:

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. ;)
  • bubba timbubba tim Posts: 3,216
    Hey bill, I got the mail today. Thanks. Very nice "short tool" for lobstas and stoners.. :woohoo: :woohoo: :woohoo:

    ps, got a good group with the 6mmbr at 300 yards.
    SEE YOU IN FLORIDA, March 14th and 15th 2014 You must master temp, smoke, and time to achive moisture, taste, and texture! Visit for BRISKET HELP
  • Little ChefLittle Chef Posts: 4,725
    LOL!! He was not one of my customers!!! :laugh: Cute pic! ;)
  • Thanks Michelle - deep sixing the frozen marinade when I get hope.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and Tim.
  • wow i mailed that priority on 11/02 [our goverment at work[ now you know who to defend see you in march
  • thank you - good info
  • WOW!! I think this is one of THE BEST posts here on the Forum. I can't thank you enough for caring enough to put this in easy to understand terms.

    A Retired Biochemist
  • EggsakleyEggsakley Posts: 1,014
    Bravo L.C. and thanks for the post. Most informative and accurate as usual. Hope everyone in the forum reads this one. :)
  • Thanks LC !

    Important information for every day!

    I do have a question for you about thawing and marinating pork. (I guess any meat but I'll use pork as my example)

    What is the best way to thaw out a piece of pork so that it can be marinated.

    out of the freezer then into the fridge, then marinate and place back in the fridge


    out of the freezer in a plastic bag, into water (specific temp?) marinade and place back in the fridge.


    should I marinate a fresh piece freeze it, thaw and cook?

  • Little ChefLittle Chef Posts: 4,725
    :) Thanks.
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