Safe food handling tips for the holidays

November  10, 2010

Thanksgiving TurkeyWith the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays rapidly approaching, the thoughts of many turn to family gatherings and planning the appropriate menu.

Along with planning the menu comes the responsibility for proper food handling both on the day of the event and when re-heating the inevitable leftovers.

Students in Lake Washington Technical College's (LWTC) Baking Arts program and Culinary Arts program, under the supervision of LWTC Chef Janet Shaffer, have put together safety tips when preparing the perfect holiday dinner. Chef Shaffer teaches the college's Food Service Safety and Sanitation Culinary class (CULA 128) which is required of all students enrolled in the two programs.

Following these simple steps will help ensure an enjoyable holiday season.

Safe Food Handling Tips

  1. Plan ahead. Make sure you have enough room in your oven (hot holding) and refrigerator (cold holding) to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  2. Remember that the elderly, pregnant women, children and individuals whom have a lower immunity may be extra susceptible to food borne illness. Be extra careful to follow the guidelines set by the King County Health Department:
  3. Defrost raw meat, including the turkey, in the refrigerator on the bottom shelf. Make sure meat juices do not come in contact with ready to eat or any other foods. Frozen turkeys can take days to defrost properly, so plan accordingly.
  4. Wash your hands often and well. Scrub with soap and warm water for a total of 20 seconds, before, during and after handling food or food contact surfaces.
  5. Make sure that your kitchen is wiped clean. Wash, rinse and sanitize surfaces that have been exposed to raw meats before cutting vegetables and other foods.
  6. Make sure your guests wash their hands. Use tongs, serving spoons and forks to avoid bare hand contact with foods. Many bacteria and viruses pass from people to food and food contact surfaces. So, keep picky fingers out of the kitchen before the meal.
  7. Cook foods to proper internal temperatures. Use an accurate thermometer and test in several places. Cook turkey to at least 165 degrees and hold hot, 140 degrees or higher, while serving to control bacterial growth. It is best to cook stuffing outside of the bird.
  8. Leftovers should be cooled and stored promptly.
  9. Reheat leftover foods to 165 degrees (within 2 hours) for 15 seconds and check the temperature with accurate thermometers.
  10. Notify others of food that carries a risk of potential allergens

About Chef Janet Shaffer
Janet Shaffer photoChef Janet Shaffer brings experience in both education and retail to her position as an instructor in Lake Washington Technical College's Baking Arts and Culinary art program.

Chef Shaffer has worked in early childhood education and in delicatessens, bakeries, candy and cake production. Additionally, she has operated catering and banquet service operations, edited textbooks, taught contract training for the U.S. Navy and prepared food for the Governor's Inaugural Ball in 2005.

At LWTC her teaching focuses on baking fundamentals with an emphasis on quality production and student employability. She also instructs the Food Safety & Sanitation class, a requirement for all culinary students. Her baking students have won many first place awards in local competitions and Janet has won multiple silver and bronze medals from the American Culinary Federation. She has participated as a judge for the Bite of Seattle.

Janet has a Bachelors of Science degree in Culinary Management from the Art Institute. She holds a Certified Working Pastry Chef certification from the American Culinary Federation and serves as the secretary for the Washington State Chefs Association. She conducts food handler testing for the King County Health Department and the National Restaurant Association.

About Lake Washington Technical College
Lake Washington Technical College was founded in 1949 and offers affordable professional and technical training for today's job market. Training is available in 39 programs, with 107 degree and certificate options: information technology; business & service; health & fitness; manufacturing & transportation technologies; and arts, language & science. The college's main campus is located in Kirkland, WA, with branch campuses in Redmond, WA, and Duvall, WA. For further information on LWTC please visit or call 425-739-8100.