Food prep tips to prepare that Thanksgiving feast safely

Nov 21, 2023, 8:22 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – It’s almost time to gobble up that delicious, long-awaited meal. Before you throw that turkey in the oven, there are some things you need to know.

“Turkey is the big culprit as far as food poisoning is concerned,” Christopher Delissio, Executive Chef at Intermountain Health said. “Thanksgiving and the holidays are the number one time for people to get sick.”

So, here are some food preparation tips to keep you and your loved ones healthy.

Thaw the turkey properly

“Defrost in the fridge is the safest option,” Delissio said. 

Emma talks to chef Delissio

Chef Delissio explains some of the main points of safely cooking your big holiday meal. (KSL TV)

Working in a clean and sanitized space

Chef Delissio gets out all the ingredients, utensils, and other materials he needs before he starts cooking.

“I don’t want to have to go around the kitchen once I start touching this turkey,” he said. 

Chef Delissio

Chef Delissio has everything laid out before he starts working on his turkey. (KSL TV)

Safe practices also include washing hands regularly — including after taking off gloves — and using different cutting boards for different food items. 

Cook the turkey thoroughly

Chef Delissio recommends “spatchcocking,” which includes removing the backbone from the turkey so it can be pressed and laid flat on a pan. That way, Delissio said, the turkey cooks more evenly.

“We’re not going to have any possible cold spots, so we know it’s going to hit the right temp throughout,” he said. 

Spatchcocked turkey

Spatchcocking the turkey can help it cook more efficiently. (KSL TV)

According to the Department of Agriculture, a turkey must reach 165 degrees F to be safe, but you can take it out of the oven as low as 160 degrees F because the temperature will rise as it rests.

Store the leftovers properly

stacking leftovers correctly

Chef Delissio said it’s important to toss out leftovers if they smell funny. (KSL TV)

“We really want to start cooling it down within two hours of serving and getting it down to our proper temperature,” Delissio said. “If you’re going to be cooling down your turkey, you’ll probably want to pre-slice your turkey and portion it out, and then wrap it up and cool it down.”

Delissio recommended using food storage containers with more surface area, so the dishes cool more quickly. When put in the fridge, they shouldn’t be stacked one on top of another but should allow for optimal airflow whenever possible. 

As for the shelf life of leftovers, Delissio said food should be thrown out after three days. 

“Use your best judgment,” he said. “If it smells off, it’s better to get rid of it. If it tastes off, it’s better to get rid of it.” 

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Food prep tips to prepare that Thanksgiving feast safely