Belfast Telegraph

How to avoid Xmas dinner disaster... the experts' guide to preventing turkey troubles

Chef Stephen Jeffers from Forestside Cookery School and Dr Gary Kearney from safefood
Chef Stephen Jeffers from Forestside Cookery School and Dr Gary Kearney from safefood
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

One in four people in Northern Ireland have had a Christmas dinner disaster, statistics from an all-Ireland food safety organisation show.

Half of us will also run the risk of food poisoning ahead of the festive feast by washing the turkey before cooking it, which can spread food poisoning germs around kitchen surfaces and on to ready-to-eat foods.

That is according to research commissioned by safefood in Northern Ireland as they launch their campaign to take the stress out of Christmas cooking and ensure everyone has a safe and tasty turkey this holiday season.

A poll of 500 adults found the most common Christmas dinner catastrophes included overcooking or undercooking the turkey (30%), forgetting to turn on the oven (17%), and the turkey not fitting in the oven (17%).

It also emerged that 18% of those surveyed reported a cooker or oven malfunction, while 13% served up cold food by mistake and 10% overcooked the vegetables.

The findings also revealed that over a quarter of people (30%) will be cooking their first Christmas dinner this year, while one in four (25%) are relative novices, having only cooked Christmas dinner once or twice before.

Dr Linda Gordon, chief specialist in food science at safefood, said that even the most confident festive cooks can find preparing Christmas dinner a challenge.

"For many it can be an overwhelming experience, especially if you haven't cooked it before or aren't used to cooking for a large number of people," she said.

"We're here to help ease the stress with cooking Christmas dinner with essential tips and advice on how to cook a cracking festive meal. Whatever cooking method, timings or recipes you use, you know your turkey is properly cooked when there's no pink meat in the thickest part of the breast and thigh, the juices run clear and the meat is piping hot throughout."

Dr Gordon said it was important to cover and place Christmas leftovers in the fridge within two hours of cooking and to use them within three days.

She also advised that when reheating leftovers, they should be reheated "only once" and "until they're piping hot".

"Our website www.safefood.eu is stuffed with lots of useful resources including a turkey cooking time calculator, how-to videos and lots of tasty Christmas and leftovers recipes," she continued.

"And for any last-minute questions on Christmas Day itself, our safefood Chefbot will also be available to answer questions through Facebook messenger @safefood.eu."

Chef Stephen Jeffers, who is supporting safefood's Christmas food safety campaign, acknowledged that the pressure to make the best meal of the year at Christmas is very high.

"Being prepared is the key, so if you have a clear idea of what you are doing and follow proper food hygiene practices, you're off to a great start," he said. "The most important thing is that you enjoy the day, so don't put yourself under too much pressure to cook overly complicated recipes.

"Plan everything out beforehand and stick to that plan.

"You can find everything you need to help you cook safely this Christmas Day at www.safefood.eu."

How to have yourself a healthy little Christmas... how to eat right during the festive season, Mind, Body & Soul, p28-29

Three crucial tips

Get your fridge ready.

Allow enough time to defrost.

Do not wash your turkey or any poultry as this splashes food poisoning bacteria around your kitchen through drips and splashes. If you do need to clean the bird, wipe it with a disposable paper towel, discarding the used paper towel and any packaging directly into the bin.

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