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Don’t make your guests sick on Thanksgiving

No guessing; use thermometer make sure turkey is done.  |  AP

No guessing; use a thermometer to make sure the turkey is done. | AP

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Carve with care

For safe turkey carving, your best aids are a sharp knife to create smooth, even slices and a heavy platter or cutting board.

Let the turkey stand for a few minutes after removing it from the oven. It will firm up and be easier to carve.

Take your time, and always carve away from you. Use a carving fork to steady the bird. If it makes you nervous to carve in front of an audience at the table, do it in the kitchen. Here’s how:

1. Cut the skin or tie holding the drumsticks. Grasp the end of the drumstick. Place your knife between the thigh and the body of the turkey and cut through the skin to the joint. Remove the entire leg by pulling out and back, using the point of the knife to disjoint it. Separate the thigh and drumstick at the joint.

2. Insert your fork in the upper wing to steady the turkey. Make a long cut above the wing joint through to the body. Disjoint the wing from the body.

3. Slice straight down with an even stroke, beginning halfway up the breast. When the knife reaches the cut above the wing bone, the slice will fall free. Continue to slice the breast meat, starting the cut at a higher point each time.

4. Alternatively, cut along either side of the breast bone and then under each breast half to remove to the whole half from the carcass. Then slice each boneless breast half on a cutting board. —Leah A. Zeldes

Updated: December 29, 2013 7:14AM

The last thing you want to do when cooking for the holidays is make your friends and family sick. Foodborne illness can have serious consequences, says Nancy Donley, spokeswoman for STOP Foodborne Illness, a Chicago-based food-safety advocacy organization:

“Don’t assume that your food is safe, and don’t assume that if you get sick, it’s no big deal,” she adds. Remember the four C’s: “Cook, clean, chill and prevent cross contamination.”

The danger zone for bacterial growth lies between 40 and 140 degrees, so food-prep should minimize the time perishable foods stay in those temperatures.

It sounds wrong, but keep your turkey cold while you thaw it. Easiest is to put it on a platter to contain drips and stash it in the refrigerator. Thawing this way takes at least 24 hours for every 5 pounds the bird weighs, however. If you run out of time, you can thaw safely but more quickly in cold water. That takes 30 minutes per pound. Submerge the still-wrapped bird in cold water. Replace with fresh cold water every 30 minutes.

Wash your hands frequently before, during and after food preparation, advises registered dietician Toby Smithson, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Lay out all your ingredients and utensils before you start handling the raw turkey, suggests Donley. Clean utensils and surfaces with hot, soapy water as you go. Not only is this a timesaver, it helps prevent cross contamination.

“Don’t get juices from the raw turkey onto foods that are eaten raw,” Donley says. Both she and Smithson advise against washing the raw bird, which is unnecessary and apt to splash bacteria around the kitchen.

“But wash vegetables,” Smithson says, to protect against soil-borne bacteria such as E. coli. She recommends color-coded cutting boards to prevent cross-contamination. For example, green for raw vegetables and red for raw meats and poultry.

Cook turkey at oven temperatures no lower than 325 degrees. “Use a meat thermometer to make sure it comes up to the correct temperature,” says Donley. Temperatures should reach 180 degrees in the thigh, 170 degrees in the thickest part of the breast and 165 degrees in the center of the stuffing.

Refrigerate leftovers in small containers within two hours after cooking. (This limit is cumulative — if you have the cooked food out at room temperature for an hour on Thanksgiving Day, the leftovers shouldn’t sit out for more than an hour at their next appearance.)

For more food-safety tips, see the Academy’s website and download the “Is My Food Safe?” mobile app.

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