Cooking risks to avoid this festive season, according to experts

The holidays are a time to join friends and family and celebrate with one another. However, if you are hosting or helping with a large gathering and or meal, it can be easy to become distracted, overwhelmed, and make potentially dangerous mistakes.

With Christmas dinner being one of the most widely-shared festive traditions across the globe and festive baking being a Christmas favourite pastime, there is an increased risk of falling ill when serving up delicious eats at this time of year.

Experts at Virtual College by Netex have highlighted some of the greatest Christmas risks to bear in mind when spending time in the kitchen this festive season. 

Here are some of those risks.

Planning on washing your turkey? Think twice.

You may think it is clean and hygienic to wash your festive bird on or before the big day, but you may want to think twice before doing so.

Washing raw turkey, or whatever meat or poultry you may be serving as the centrepiece of your Christmas day feast, for that matter, can spread more germs than it eliminates.

While washing can swill any nasty bacteria on the exterior of your meat down the drain, it can equally spread it around the rest of your kitchen. Any splashes that occur when washing the bird can spread to the surrounding areas of your sink or even further away than you may realise, including on counter-tops, utensils, and equipment, which could then lead to cross-contamination later down the line.

And with 48.6 percent of people always, or usually, washing their turkey, according to a survey, this is an all the more important detail to ensure you don’t make the mistake of on this festive day.

The risk of raw flour

We’re all likely to be familiar with the risks associated with raw eggs, known for being high-risk in carrying the potentially lethal Salmonella bacteria. But, as well as being conscious of washing your hands and cleaning your surfaces after handling this product, you should also consider another risk that could be equally problematic.

What many people may not be aware of is the number of harmful bacteria that lie in flour. Even though it may not seem like your typical ‘raw’ food, flour is raw and, with that, means it offers the perfect environment for harmful bacteria to grow.

For example, the strain of bacteria known as E.Coli can be found in flour and is known to be a cause of food poisoning. So, make sure you’re keeping your surfaces clean after measuring out the flour needed for any of your festive bakes, too. Or alternatively, steer clear of sampling your sugar cookies, gingerbread, or any other Christmas treats, for that matter, before they’re cooked.

Planning on placing a penny in your Christmas pudding? Think again

Placing a coin inside your Christmas pudding for a lucky person to find in their slice is a lovely age-old tradition, but there are several risks associated with this.

Cooking your Christmas pudding with your coin inside is not advised because should the coin contain copper or nickel, this can leave a green residue in the pudding itself.

This not only makes for an unpleasant after-taste, but leaves you consuming what is, in larger quantities, a toxic substance. But, if you’re adamant about keeping this old tradition alive, then you should place the piece in after cooking – but make sure your coin is thoroughly cleaned as bacteria and fungi can be rife on the currency!

Equally important is the risk of choking on the coin itself.

Reconsider what you’ll be stuffing your turkey with

You’ll find that people around the world will be stuffing their turkeys with many delicious mixtures of vegetables, fruits, spices, and otherwise, but there are some particular mixtures that you may need to be cautious of when stuffing your Christmas bird.

Traditional Christmas stuffing can pose a significant risk to your health when cooked inside your turkey. According to the Food Standards Agency, a turkey’s internal temperature should be at least 75°C or above in its thickest part (between the breast and the thigh) in order to kill all harmful bacteria.

And by the time the turkey is cooked, you’ll find that the stuffing inside is far from being so, which poses a health risk given that the juices of the turkey will seep into the stuffing. The only way to avoid this is by heating the stuffing itself to around 75°C, but in doing so, this would mean the temperature of the turkey is heated to a significantly higher temperature, and you’ll more than likely find that your turkey ends up, well, rather ‘well done’.

So, perhaps avoid stuffing your turkey with, well, stuffing this year and serve it on the side to eliminate your risk of contamination this Christmas.

Maybe sideline the crudités from your Christmas entrées this year

Many enjoy a festive crudité and cheese board lined with plump grapes on the approach to Christmas time.

And so you may be surprised to hear that raw fruit and vegetables can harbour harmful bacteria, which can leave you with a poorly timed illness, including the likes of Listeria, E.Coli, and Salmonella.

Ensuring that you’re washing all of your raw vegetables before consuming them is one way to minimise your risk of contracting any unwanted bacteria, but the best way to make sure your fresh produce is in the best condition to consume is by cooking it.

So, perhaps sideline the crudités this year if you want to ensure that you’re not going to wind up with a nasty bug come Boxing Day morning.

Avoid an over packed fridge at all costs

Christmas will have you filling your fridge, freezer, and cupboards with all of your festive treats. However, you may want to reconsider cramming your storage spaces to the brim.

Over packing your fridge can reduce the circulation of air in the appliance, meaning your food may not be kept at the right temperature at which your fridge is programmed to store it.

It can also damage your motor as this will work harder to try and keep the air circulating and the last thing you need is your fridge motor malfunctioning on Christmas day!

If this was to occur, though, perishables should not be kept at room temperature for any longer than a couple of hours as they will spoil.

Leftovers? Of course, but make sure that they’re properly stored

Christmas day and leftovers are practically synonymous, and there’s nothing quite as satisfying as tucking into the beautiful remains of your cracking Christmas lunch or dinner the day after.

So, should you be boxing up the excess after your festive meals, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing so in the proper manner, or you’ll risk becoming under the weather.

If you leave your leftovers to cool on the kitchen counter before sealing them up and putting them in the fridge, you’ll want to ensure you’re not leaving them out for too long.

You shouldn’t leave cooked food out for any longer than two hours, and any food left longer than this should be discarded. Also, if the temperature of a room is warmer than 32°C, this time frame reduces to only one hour, or you’ll risk contracting food poisoning.

Using the microwave to defrost? You’ll need to bear this in mind

While it is safe to use your microwave for defrosting Christmas produce in preparation for the big day, you’ll need to be aware of the precautions you need to take after it’s defrosted in order to avoid falling ill with food poisoning.

Whether it’s your pudding, entrées, or even your star of the show turkey, you shouldn’t leave your freshly-defrosted food out for very long before you actually cook it. Per pound, you shouldn’t let your food sit for longer than between 8-10 minutes before cooking it. Equally, if you’ve had your defrosted food sitting out of the freezer for 20 minutes or more, you shouldn’t attempt to defrost it in the microwave at all, or you will risk nasty bacteria growing where it shouldn’t.

Instead, you should continue the defrosting process in the fridge, keeping raw produce separate to avoid cross-contamination. iolnews

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