Holiday meal prep

Novice holiday hosts must keep food safety top of mind.

STILLWATER – For many people, heading home for the holidays is a long-standing tradition. However, with the world in the midst of a pandemic, traditions need to take a slightly different turn this year.

Barbara Brown, Oklahoma State University Extension food specialist, said millennials and others who typically travel to their parents’ or grandparents’ homes for holidays should consider staying away this year due to health safety concerns.

“This younger generation could now be hosting their own holiday celebrations for the first time with their own smaller bubble of family and friends,” Brown said. “A recent survey indicated 71% of all age groups will be celebrating the holidays in smaller groups.”

Those who are new to hosting might also be novices about food safety. Clean counters and utensils are important during food preparation. Brown said to be sure to disinfect counters, cutting boards and knives several times during the food preparation process, especially after raw meats.

Proper internal food temperatures are a must. For example, when cooking a turkey dinner, make sure to reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees. A food thermometer needs to be a standard kitchen tool.

Keep raw meat separate from other foods. Brown also said to use one cutting board for meats and another for fresh fruits and vegetables. Following the meal, make sure foods are put into storage containers and refrigerated or frozen within two hours.

Brown said family favorite recipes are traditional for get-togethers, but hosts may opt for easier foods to bolster safety.

“We’ll probably be seeing a lot less finger food on the table this holiday season to reduce viral and microbial spread. Research shows people are seeking easy pre-meal appetizer replacements and encouraging safe handling and serving practices,” she said. “Lots of finger food appetizers may be a tradition for your family’s holiday festivities, but maybe this is the year to start something new.”

Consider more casserole and pasta dishes to help simplify the serving process. Individual desserts also are a good option.

“Obviously, traditions are important to families, and if those can be carried out safely, go ahead with them,” Brown said. “However, since 2020 has been anything but traditional, don’t be afraid to follow a new path this year.”

For more food safety information, visit OSU Extension’s website.

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