The last minute holiday rush in the kitchen

Holiday meals are an opportunity to share your desire to keep food safe with family and friends.

The gifts are wrapped, the holiday food is prepared, turkey is roasting and everyone has arrived on time. The next thing you know, people are offering to help in the kitchen.

Up to this point, you have checked the green bean casserole, you’ve temped the meat, and the rolls are hot, so what is left for anyone else to do? This is where you can hand out before-dinner jobs and after-dinner jobs. It is your turn to teach others about food safety.

Know your guests. Do they have a kitchen of their own? Can they handle a big job like mashing potatoes? Who would wash their hands before setting the table? It doesn’t hurt to remind anyone that comes into your kitchen that they must wash their hands. After hands are washed let them creatively set the table. When all foods are cooked to their proper temperature and cold foods are taken from the refrigerator, ask everyone to bring a dish to the table and sit down to enjoy.

Remember your task list; those that did not receive a job prior to eating dinner can begin the clean–up. A very important part of this job is putting the leftovers away. The two-hour rule states that food should not be left out for more than two hours without reheating or refrigeration. Time starts when the food was taken from the oven or refrigeration so that includes the time on the table. Once again have your “volunteers” wash their hands and put on an apron so the packaging of leftovers can begin. To entice young people to help, you can provide cute aprons that make the task seem festive and adds to the excitement of the day. Leftovers need to be taken care of correctly:

  • Place foods in shallow containers with a large surface area to let the heat escape the food quickly.
  • Wrap for storage using food-safe wrap or containers
  • Label and date leftovers before placing them in the refrigerator or freezer. This helps you to know how long the food has been stored, and if it is still safe to eat. Michigan State University Extension reminds you that “when in doubt, throw it out.”

After all the dishes are done and the food is safely stored away, it is time to enjoy your guests and the memories of the day. Relax with family and friends and know you helped everyone that has joined you for the holiday to feel needed and productive in your kitchen. And while they were there with you, you were able to guide them in the ways of handling food safely.

For more on this topic and other food safety tips contact your local MSU Extension office.

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