Food tips for the holiday season

By Jennifer Woods - [email protected]

Tips involving food for the holiday season, including how to safely thaw a turkey, and information regarding the selling of goodies, were recently shared by Fayette County Public Health (FCPH).

Thawing a turkey

Turkeys, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) website, are safe “indefinitely” as long as they remain frozen. Once turkeys begin to thaw, bacteria that may have been present prior to being frozen can continue to grow again. The three safe ways to defrost a turkey is via the refrigerator, in cold water or in a microwave oven.

To thaw via the refrigerator, which is the USDA recommended method, allow approximately 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds of turkey. Once thawed, the turkey can be safely stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 days longer. This is the recommended method as the turkey thaws at a consistent and safe temperature.

To thaw via cold water, the turkey should be submerged in cold water with the water being changed every 30 minutes. As soon as the turkey is thawed, it should be cooked.

To thaw via a microwave oven, use the defrost function based on weight of the turkey and cook the turkey as soon as it is thawed.

The website explains, “Before you commit to thawing your turkey in the microwave, check your owner’s manual for the size turkey that will fit in your microwave oven, the minutes per pound and the power level to use when thawing a turkey. Remove all outside wrapping and place the turkey on a microwave-safe dish to catch any juices that may leak. Use the defrost function based on weight. As a general rule, allow 6 minutes per pound when thawing a turkey in the microwave. Be sure to rotate it several times, and even flip it, during the thawing process. If the turkey starts to actually cook instead of just defrost, let it rest for 5 minutes or so before you resume thawing. Partway through thawing you may wish to cover the tips of the wings and drumsticks with a small piece of foil to shield them from the microwaves and keep them from cooking.”

Thawing techniques that are not recommended, according to USDA, include thawing a turkey on the counter or back porch, in a brown paper grocery bag or plastic garbage bag, using the dishwasher with or without water, or any other method that is not via the refrigerator, cold water or microwave.

Come Thanksgiving, if the turkey is still frozen or icy, it can be cooked from a frozen state. The website explains it will take at least 50 percent longer to cook a solidly frozen turkey than a thawed turkey, but it is perfectly safe to cook it this way. A food thermometer can be used to make sure the turkey is cooked through. Once the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing and the thickest part of the breast reads at or above 165 degrees Fahrenheit, the turkey is done cooking.

Selling homemade goodies and treats for the holiday season

According to FCPH, Ohio law allows certain items to be made in home kitchens and sold with no inspection or licensing requirement under the Cottage Food law. While some can be made and sold under this law, not all homemade goods are exempt.

Some examples of foods that are not permitted due to a higher potential for food-borne illness are puddings, cheesecakes, pumpkin pies, custard pies, cream pies, etc.

Here is a list of permitted foods shared by FCPH:

-Non-potentially hazardous bakery products (such as cookies, breads, brownies, cakes, fruit pies, etc.)

– Candy (including no-bake cookies, chocolate covered pretzels or similar chocolate covered non-perishable items)



-Fruit butters

-Granola (including granola bars and granola bars dipped in candy; if fruit used must be commercially dried)

-Popcorn (including flavored popcorn, kettle corn, popcorn balls, caramel corn, but does not include un-popped popping corn)

-Unfilled baked donuts

-Waffle cones


-Dry cereal and nut snack mixes with seasonings

-Roasted coffee (coffee may be whole beans or ground)

-Dry baking mixes (for making items such as breads and cookies)

-Dry herbs and dry herb blends

-Dry seasoning blends (such as dry barbecue rubs and seafood boils)

-Dry tea blends

-Flavored honey

-Fruit chutney

-Maple sugar

-Dry soup mixes containing commercially dried vegetables, beans, grains and seasoning.

The Cottage Food Production Operation online document explains that a “Cottage Food Production Operation” is a person who makes food items within their own home to sell that are not potentially hazardous. The document provides information for this person such as — foods must be labeled properly, or they will be considered misbranded or adulterated.

Those with questions can call the FCPH Environmental Health Department at 740-333-3590. Follow FCPH on its website,, or Facebook page, “Fayette County Public Health-OHIO.

Reach journalist Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355.

By Jennifer Woods

[email protected]