SALT LAKE CITY — Cuisine Unlimited’s executive chef Steve Ulibarri is no stranger in the kitchen. This year, he’s whipping up sweet potatoes topped with a cinnamon pecan streusel, green beans, a beautiful turkey and mashed potatoes with chives and extra butter.
This is the 22nd Thanksgiving dinner in a row Ulibarri has prepared as a chef at Cuisine Unlimited. He typically caters between 30 and 40 turkeys each year!
Ulibarri takes food prep safety and sanitation very seriously. “If we are doing raw product, it’s on one table only,” he said.
The cooks make sure to use separate cutting boards for raw poultry and vegetables. “We are always wearing gloves (and) always keeping temperature control,” Ulibarri said.
He also makes sure the refrigerator is at the right temperature. “We try to keep them about 39 to 41 (degrees),” Ulibarri said. He also ensures that each turkey reaches 165 degrees during the cooking process.
Intermountain Healthcare's dietician Kary Woodruff said it's not safe to leave food out for longer than two hours, unless kept cool or warm.
“We strongly recommend using warming trays or ice baths if you have them,” she said. “We do want to be really careful with how we are serving our food and to make sure that it is put away promptly to decrease risk of foodborne illness.”
Woodruff said cold food should stay at least 40 degrees or colder, and warm food should be kept at 140 degrees or warmer. She said the safest way to defrost a turkey is in the refrigerator and discourages people from rinsing it under water, as doing so increases the risk of contamination.
Woodruff said you can use a water bath to defrost a turkey, but you must be strict about making sure the water doesn’t get warmer than 40 degrees by continually adding ice. She said taking the time to defrost it in the refrigerator is really the preferred method.
“The greater risk of rinsing a turkey or poultry is that we are going to spread those pathogens across the kitchen,” she said.
Woodruff also suggests sterilizing the counter space with a disinfectant in between preparing foods.
Ulibarri also said it’s not worth the risk. He encourages people to get leftovers in the fridge as fast as possible. “Don’t put it off. Just get it done. Put it in the Tupperware (or) put it in the cooler,” he said. “We don’t want anybody getting sick.”
Ulibarri said paying attention to details goes a long way. “You know, little precautions like that really do help,” he said.
Woodruff says turkey leftovers will stay good in the refrigerator only about one to two days before they need to be stored in the freezer. Other side dishes like stuffing and casseroles are safe to eat for about three to four days.