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Safefood issues advice for Christmas 16.12.15

With Christmas just around the corner, we start to think of the delicious food this time of year brings. And whether cooking for yourself, family, friends or relations, safefood are reminding you to listen to the voice of food safety this Christmas and remember focus on The 4Cs of food safety - cooking, cleaning, chilling, and avoiding cross-contamination.

Cleaning
Ahead of the festive rush give your fridge a good clean with warm soapy water.
Good food safety means knowing where bacteria are likely to thrive and not giving them a chance to get comfortable. Regular cleaning of worktops, chopping boards and any surfaces that come into contact with food is important to prevent the spread of bacteria. Proper cleaning requires hot soapy water and a good scrub.

Cooking
When preparing raw meat and poultry, its best to handle it as little as possible. With turkey, unpack it directly into a roasting tray before placing it straight in the oven. Remember that you dont need to wash turkey at Christmas as this can actually spread germs around your kitchen through drips, drops and splashes - proper cooking will actually kill any germs present. If you do need to clean the bird, wipe it with a disposable paper towel, discarding the used paper towel and any packaging directly in to the bin. You should always wash your hands thoroughly with warm soapy water and dry with a clean hand towel before and after you handle the bird,

Raw poultry and meat can contain germs like Salmonella and Campylobacter, so its important to cook these foods thoroughly. Cover the bird with tinfoil during cooking as this helps the bird to cook more evenly and gives a more juicy product. The turkey should be basted every hour during cooking (the tinfoil can be removed for the last half hour to finally brown the skin).

With an unstuffed turkey, you can check whether its thoroughly cooked by using a clean fork or skewer to pierce the thickest part of the breast meat (between the leg and breast) once the juices run clear, there is no pink meat left and the turkey is piping hot all the way through, then its properly cooked and ready to serve up.

Different ovens can have different performance characteristics and its important to bear in mind that even when ovens are correctly adjusted, the presence of other items in the oven, or frequent opening and closing of the oven door can make an oven less effective and extra cooking time may be needed.

Dont rush to carve the stuffed cooked bird - one way of making sure that the stuffing is properly cooked, without risking overcooking the meat, is to remove the turkey from the oven when the meat is fully cooked, and leave it to rest for half an hour covered in tinfoil.

Remember that with stuffed turkeys, you should allow extra cooking time as safefood research has shown that when a turkey is stuffed in the body cavity, it is the centre of the stuffing that is slowest to cook. So for stuffed turkeys, it is essential you check the stuffing itself is piping hot all the way through as well as making sure the meat at the thickest part of the breast is cooked thoroughly before serving.

Stuffing is great at Christmas and whether its breadcrumb, sausage meat or your own favourite recipe, always remember:

Prepare the stuffing just before cooking
Try not to overstuff your bird; use only 10% of the weight of the bird in stuffing e.g. 500g stuffing for a 5kg turkey
Allow extra cooking time for stuffed birds ( to help you calculate this, go to www.safefood.eu )
Check that stuffing is piping hot all the way through before serving.
Chilling - Love those leftovers

Leftover turkey and ham should be covered and stored in the fridge within two hours of cooking you can help cool it down by cutting it into smaller pieces. Once refrigerated, it should be eaten within three days. If you want to freeze stuffing or Christmas meats, wrap them in heavy freezer wrap and put in a container suitable for your freezer.

When reheating Christmas leftovers, turkey and stuffing should be reheated until they are piping hot all the way through. Food should never be reheated more than once and leftover gravy or soup should be brought to a rolling boil.

Avoid Cross-contamination
Germs that cause food poisoning can easily spread in your kitchen following these steps will prevent this from happening:
- Re-arrange the shelves to make room for your turkey - remember to store it on the bottom shelf so any drips wont land on ready to eat foods which could spread germs leaving these foods unsafe to eat.
- Dont mix ready-to-eat foods with raw foods when in the kitchen
- Make sure to wash your hands properly with soap and water
- Wash kitchen utensils and work surfaces properly that come into contact with food
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