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Guest Thinkers

Maybe Hold Off on the Eggnog ‘Til Next Year…

Against all odds and predictions the Food Safety and Modernization Act passed Congress this week. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation, the first major overhaul of the country’s food safety laws in over 70 years.

This year saw the largest recall of tainted eggs in American history: 550 million eggs were recalled because they were linked to an outbreak of salmonella that sickened at least 1900 people.

So, when your conservative relatives start bitching about how the government never does anything for them, you can point out that next year’s Christmas feast will contain significantly fewer lethal bacteria.

In the meantime, keep your instant read thermometers handy. Actually, you should always keep them handy. Even the best regulations can’t protect you if you don’t handle food correctly at home.

This is a longwinded way of saying, please, cook your turkey to 165 F, as measured through the thickest part of the thigh, and no more. Turkey haters fall into two camps: Those who are bait-shy because of food poisoning and those who associate turkey with the texture of cotton balls because their families bake the bird into dessicated submission.

The most unfortunate of all are those who roast their turkeys for hours and hours and 200 degrees, or some ridiculously low temperature. The turkey dries out, but the bugs don’t necessarily die.

If you’d like to have your young, elderly, or immunosuppressed relatives back next year, bake your dressing outside the turkey. Baste the dressing with the turkey juices as you go. You’ll get a prettier presentation, better-tasting non-soggy dressing with a crispy crust and a moist interior, a turkey that cooks faster and more evenly, and a cleaner carcass for making stock.

There is no disadvantage to baking dressing outside the turkey, other than the fact that an extra dish of stuffing takes up room in your oven. But then again, half the people I know complain that there isn’t enough room for all the dressing inside the turkey and make an extra dish of stuffing anyway. 

The oven space issue is easily overcome. Physics dictates that it takes a lot less time to bake a shallow dish of moistened bread to 165 degrees than it does to bake a 20-lb turkey to the same temperature. You can bake the stuffing while the turkey rests.

[Photo credit: Human_Descent, Creative Commons.]


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