Preparing your kitchen for holiday cooking and baking

Extra steps before you begin cooking and baking can keep everyone safe.

As the holiday season approaches, many of us will spend extra time in the kitchen from now until the New Year, preparing wonderful foods to share with family and friends. Many families have special holiday traditions including a wide variety of food items. Whether it is your special glaze for a holiday ham, or varieties of holiday cookies, family recipes and treats, Michigan State University Extension recommends that before beginning the holiday cooking and baking in your kitchen, you take some time to consider a few food safety tips for your kitchen. With flu season in full swing and germs easily spread, you want to make sure that you aren’t contaminating your holiday foods with bacteria that can lead to foodborne illness during the holiday season. 

Before the holiday cooking and baking begins in your kitchen, remember the following tips: 

  • Clean hands and countertops—it might sound simple, but it is critical before you begin preparing any type of food, to have thoroughly washed your hands (at least 20 seconds with hot, soapy water) and have cleaned and sanitized all countertops, workspaces and utensils to stop the spread of bacteria around your kitchen and your food. Be sure to have soap, paper towels and sanitizers in the kitchen to keep everything clean. Some sanitizer wipes are not made for food surfaces, so check the product labels.
  • Purchase freezer bags or freezer wrap for storing holiday treats, like cookies, that you may bake ahead of time and freeze for later use. 
  • Check refrigerator thermometers—be sure your refrigerator has a thermometer inside. The refrigerator temperature needs to be below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to keep food safe from bacteria. Refrigerator temperature is critical to safe food!
  • Proper refrigerator and freezer space—make sure that you have adequate space in your refrigerators for additional food items, especially if you are hosting or cooking a large holiday meal. We often overload refrigerators during the holidays with thawing turkeys or other meats, prepped food items and leftovers. Plan for adequate refrigerator storage.
  • Food thermometers—be sure to have your food thermometer available for use during cooking and reheating.  Follow minimum internal cooking temperatures for a safe food. Also remember to check the temperatures of food when you are reheating it for later consumption to 165 degrees. 
  • Rotate food products and discard expired foods—as you are moving items around in your refrigerator to make room for holiday food, it is a great time to check expiration dates on items in the refrigerator. Discard any item that has passed its use by date. This will free up extra space in your refrigerator for holiday goodies. 

The upcoming holidays are such a wonderful time of year to share with family and friends. Get your kitchens ready for holiday food preparation so you can make sure we don’t share any foodborne illness along with the family times and holiday memories.

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