23 Nov Sabatoging Salmonella – Six steps to roasting your turkey safely: #6 – Safe serving and management of the leftovers
The primary serving rule with a turkey dinner is to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold and make sure they spend very little time in between. Appropriate holding temperatures, whether hot or cold, tend to dehydrate and deteriorate the food as time goes on. But if the rule is not followed, the consequences can be nauseating!
The critical question related to leftovers is: How has the food been stored and managed to this point? What’s it’s history? Two hours is the maximum length of time any food should remain at room temperature (in the danger zone). Holiday meals can go on forever – when everyone has eaten their fill (and then some) and Uncle Ed starts telling stories – its easy to lose track of the 2 hours and the 2 hour deadline is exceeded. Turkey contains L-tryptophan, a chemical that can make you sleepy. After preparing and eating a turkey dinner, it is hard to pop up out of your chair and begin putting food away, carving the rest of the turkey , and packaging food to send home with relatives who will be on the road again in a short time. I once had Thanksgiving dinner with a wonderful hospitable family who roasted and served a delicious 25# turkey. Their family tradition was to leave the turkey on the kitchen counter until the carcass had been picked clean (usually in 36 hours). Yikes! That breaks all the rules and makes me a bit nauseous thinking back on that experience.
Set a timer when the turkey comes out of the oven. Let it set for 20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to set in the meat. Then set the timer again for 2 hours so you have a reminder and an explanation for guests about clearing the table and putting food away. (Maybe they will help out before they fall asleep on your couch or recliner). Clean all kitchen counters, faucet handles, and exterior of small appliances with warm soapy water. Keep your refrigerator at at least 40 degrees and this is more challenging when it is stuffed full and the door is swinging open constantly with loading, unloading and gazing at the contents.
Foods from your dinner that have a safe “history” can usually be saved for 3 or 4 days. Leftovers should be reheated to 165 degrees F. Bring sauces, soups and gravies to a boil.