Eat, drink, be merry and avoid food poisoning: the four key ways to have a happy Christmas. According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), roughly 1 million cases of food poisoning are reported in the UK every year, so check your plan of action for cooking the turkey before Christmas Day comes around.

The FSA has put together some advice to help you make sure your Christmas dinner is a happy and healthy occasion for everyone.

If you’re the designated chef this year, take a look at these suggestions to help you create a culinary masterpiece – one that won’t leave anyone with an upset stomach!

Buying

Food safety - don't wash raw turkeyTry to take as many bags as possible when you do your big pre-Christmas shop so you can separate your raw and ready-to-eat food. This will prevent cross-contamination in your food.

Cross-contamination is when bacteria are accidentally transferred from one bit of food to another. This often occurs between raw and ready-to-eat food, which can cause food poisoning.

Keeping your turkey in its own separate shopping bag will prevent any bacteria getting from one food item to another.

Storing

Fitting the turkey in the fridge can be tricky alongside the party food, drinks, and all the trimmings for Christmas dinner.

Make sure your uncooked turkey is covered over and stored on the bottom shelf of your fridge. Any cooked meats can go higher up to prevent cross-contamination.

To make room, beers, soft drinks and chocolates can go in your cupboards to keep them cool; it’s more important to keep your turkey properly chilled in the fridge. Check your fridge is running at 5 degrees or colder to keep your food fresh.

Defrosting

December 22nd is National Defrost Your Turkey Day – but you may want to start earlier than that! A typical large turkey (weighing in at 6–7 kg) can take up to four days to defrost, and it’s crucial that it’s completely defrosted before you cook it.

Get your turkey out of the freezer and into a large container in the fridge. Make sure the container is big enough to trap any juices that come out during defrosting.

Avoid defrosting at room temperature. Doing this allows harmful bacteria to develop, and could risk your whole Christmas dinner!

Preparing

Being sensible when you prepare your food will help prevent cross-contamination:

  • Wash your hands between handing raw meat and read-to-eat food.
  • Don’t wash your raw turkey – this will just spread germs around the kitchen. Cooking it will kill any bacteria just fine.
  • Don’t use the same utensils or chopping boards for raw and cooked food – unless you wash them thoroughly between each use.

Cooking

Food safety - using your turkey leftoversAlways check the packaging for how long to cook your turkey. How long to cook it for and at what temperature will depend on the size of the bird.

The most important things to check are:

  • your turkey is steaming hot all the way through
  • you can’t see any pink meat when you cut into the thickest part of the bird
  • any meat juices are running clear, not coloured.

Using a temperature probe or cooking thermometer will give you peace of mind that your turkey is safe to cook. If you enjoy stuffing with your Christmas dinner, try keeping this separate while the turkey is in the oven to make sure it cooks thoroughly.

After the big day, if you’ve got lots of turkey left over, try some of Love Food Hate Waste’s tasty recipes to help you use up every last bit.