“What if, today, we were grateful for everything?” asks Charlie Brown.
You don't need to be a beloved cartoon character to understand the meaning of Thanksgiving. Giving thanks seems like an excellent goal for this year's celebration … and every day, really. Here are some important steps for a healthy, delicious and memorable holiday.
First, be safe Millions of Americans will be celebrating this Thanksgiving. Foodborne illness is a real concern. So, let's make sure everybody enjoys the meal and doesn't get ill.
From safely thawing a turkey to making sure it's properly cooked, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers a range of tips to keep your holiday safe. (One hint: take care with the stuffing). The USDA's famous Meat & Poultry Hotline will remain open on Thanksgiving Day until 11 a.m. PST; their team of experts is on hand to answer any questions you may have.
No, Thanksgiving feast would be complete without pie. Whether you're a sweet potato or pumpkin pie fan, good crust is essential. Making a good pie crust isn't rocket science...but it does involve molecular science. In this video, University of California researcher Amy Rowat uses science to show you how to make the best pie crust ever.
Second, savor the meal
Did you know that there's a science to eating? Before you pile lots of food on your plate, take time to consider these seven steps from University of California scientists and researchers; they will assure that you savor every bite of your meal.
Third, don't waste
Enjoy your meal, but make it a point to reduce food waste this holiday season.
“Food waste presents a major challenge in the United States. Estimates suggest that up to 40% of the food produced nationally never gets consumed, causing substantial economic and environmental harms. Wasted food utilizes vast quantities of precious land, water and human resources, yet rather than nourishing people, it feeds landfills, producing methane gasses that poison the environment. Much of the food waste (43%) occurs at the household level.”
We sought out experts from UC ANR's Master Food Preserver Program for advice on how to use leftovers. Some takeaways: refer to this food storage chart to determine how long you can safety store leftover food. For more tips, click here. Leftover turkey can be used to make a delicious homemade stock that can serve as the base for additional meals. We provide a recipe and information about how to safely preserve stock here.
However you celebrate Thanksgiving, the staff of UC ANR wishes you a safe, happy and healthy holiday.
Editor's Note: UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) researchers and educators draw on local expertise to conduct agricultural, environmental, economic, youth development and nutrition research that helps California thrive. We operate the 4-H, Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver Programs. We live where you live. Learn more here. Are you a #veteran or #beginning farmer interested in learning more about poultry production? UC ANR is co-hosting a series of poultry workshops beginning in December and throughout 2017. Get the details here.
Learn more about native and indigenous foods from Valerie Segrest of the Muckleshoot Tribe in the Pacific Northwest; the post appears on the UC Food Observer blog.
The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline can help you prepare a turkey that is delicious and safe for your guests.
Thanksgiving is a time for Americans to gather with loved ones to express gratitude. Dinner guests will be even more grateful if their hosts don’t play fast and loose with food safety practices when preparing the shared meals.
I am a terrible cook. My brother is an excellent cook. One year he told me his turkey was thawing in the bathtub because it was too big for the refrigerator and my enthusiasm for dining at his house began to cool.
“The prevention plan for food safety begins with planning the feast, knowing when a frozen turkey needs to start defrosting in the refrigerator so there is ample time to thaw,” says Connie Schneider, director of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Youth, Families and Communities Statewide Program. “What size turkey will you defrost? Is there enough space to thaw the turkey safely?”
To avoid making diners sick, the traditional fowl should be thawed at temperatures below 40 degrees F. The "Danger Zone," temperatures where foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly, is between 40 and 140 degrees F.
“People thaw on the counter, they put their turkeys in the garage to thaw out,” says Schneider, in a “can you believe there are such fools?” tone that warns me that I should not admit to doing this. “They also place dinner leftovers, especially the big turkey, in the garage because of lack of refrigerator space.”
The registered dietitian advises, “When using refrigerator thawing, place the turkey in its original wrapping placed in a pan, which prevents dripping as turkey defrosts.”
A whole turkey weighing 4 to 12 pounds takes 1 to 3 days to thaw in a refrigerator. Heavier turkeys take longer. A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days before cooking.
If your turkey weighs more than 12 pounds and today is Tuesday and you haven’t begun thawing it, you may have to resort to Plan B for thawing the bird or ordering Chinese food on Thursday.
Schneider also reminds us to prevent cross-contamination of foods. For example, don’t wash or rinse the turkey before cooking because the rinse water may splash bacteria around the sink, which can then come into contact with other foods and utensils. Another way to prevent cross-contamination is prepping the stuffing ingredients before you handle the raw turkey. Keep the raw turkey and their juices away from other foods. After you prep your raw turkey, wash the cutting board, knife, sink and counter tops with hot, soapy water. Sanitize cutting boards with a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water. Wash your hands with soap and warm water frequently and always after handing raw foods. And for crying out loud (to invoke a phrase my late father used), don’t wipe your dirty hands on a towel that will be used to dry clean dishes later!
Planning is also needed for storing leftover food after the meal, cautions Schneider. “Everyone loves leftovers, but make sure you have adequate refrigeration space.”
She recommends wrapping leftovers in airtight packaging or sealing in storage containers. This helps keep out bacteria while keeping your food moist and preventing your prized family dishes from picking up odors from other foods being stored in the fridge. For faster cooling, break up large amounts of food into smaller containers.
“Toss out any food that has been left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature!” Schneider admonishes. “Don’t allow your turkey to sit out, slice up the leftovers and refrigerate or freeze them right after your meal!”
Delicious leftovers that have been stored in the refrigerator can be enjoyed for 3 to 4 days. If you freeze them, you can eat them 3 or 4 months from now.
This Thanksgiving, I will be thanking God for allowing my family and me to survive our lackadaisical food handling on previous holidays. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!
Why is there a turkey in the garage?! If you’ve ever found yourself asking any variant of this question, trust us - you’re going to want to read on.
As the holiday season approaches, we begin to think about spending time with our families, enjoying one another’s company over the many feasts that accompany special days. While we may set aside mindful eating during the holiday season, we should not set aside food safety.
In many families, once the holiday meal is served it may sit on the table for 2-3 hours while people come and go, “picking” from the various serving dishes. The most creative food safety flub goes to a family member who thaws her holiday turkey in her garage. Her justification of this practice? “I haven’t hurt anyone yet!”
With respect for time-honored traditions, might we suggest that this festive time of giving and sharing SHOULD NOT include sharing foodborne illness by forgetting food safety measures? In many California counties, we may still have some heat lingering late into the November month. How much harm can the garage thawing method, or “GTM” if you will, really have? After all, we will be cooking it appropriately right? Wrong!
A few turkey thawing tips:
If thawing your turkey in the refrigerator; plan for 24 hours per 4-5 pounds of turkey.
Place the turkey into a container to avoid contaminating other foods.
If thawing your turkey in cold water; plan for 30 minutes per 1 pound of turkey. Remember to change the water every 30 minutes.
If thawing your turkey in the microwave;
follow the manufacturer guidelines.
A turkey thawed in cold water or in the microwave must be cooked immediately.
Cooking your turkey properly ensures that all harmful bacteria have been destroyed.
Cooking time ranges from 2¾ hours to 5¼ hours depending on size and whether the turkey is stuffed. To check the temperature of a properly cooked turkey, one should insert the thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and wing as well as the thickest part of the breast; proper temperature should read 165 degrees. Once all parts have reached this minimum temperature, it is safe to eat, even if parts should remain pink. Stuffing should read 165 degrees when properly cooked as well.
Here are a few tips to keep your foods safe when storing leftovers:
Cut turkey or other meats into smaller pieces. Store stuffing separately.
Divide large quantities of food items into smaller portions before storing.
Store different food items separately.
Turkey that is stored in the refrigerator can be held for 3-4 days; reheat to 165 degrees.
Frozen turkey can be stored for 2-6 months; reheat to 165 degrees.
Enjoy your holiday feast and be sure to keep your foods safe!