Health official offers tips on keeping a safe and clean kitchen for the holidays

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Food is just as big a part of the holidays as the presents and it's important to prepare it in a healthy way, so besides the ingredients, the method matters also.

Kitchens are a big gathering place this week, as the holidays are here. Carolyn Bombet, director of the Capital Region of Environmental Health for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals was called upon to talk about how to have a safe kitchen. There are four main steps to accomplish it. They are clean, separate, cook and chill. It starts with clean.

"Yes, if you can stick with the four simple steps and we want to repeat it several times," Bombet said. "So, we're going to go clean, then we're going to separate while we prep, then we're going to cook and then we're going to chill it. So, starting with clean is ever-more important. Norovirus has quickly become the number one form of food-borne illness outbreak, or cause rather, so we want to make sure we start with clean hands. Your hands are never going to be cleaner than they were when you began the whole process. Clean your countertops, clean your surfaces and then we're going to go on into separating out the food products. If you could look over here, you'll see that poultry is separate from beef, because they require different cooking temperatures. And then finally, your fruits, vegetables. And they make plenty of different cutting boards to where you can separate it out. Red for beef, yellow for poultry, green for produce."

So, once we separate, then it's time to cook it all, right?

"You're going to have lots of different food processes going on, so you're going to want to make sure and you can visit our website ( to look at the different temperatures required for your poultry, your beef, etc. and you want to make sure you have one of these (thermometer). A $2 purchase can save you a lot of time. When you're frying up a turkey, you want to get down into the center without touching the bone to make sure it's reaching that 165 degrees. That turkey dressing in the center of there, critical that it reaches 165 degrees. So, we generally recommend that you cook your stuffing separately. If you really want to cook it inside, make sure that it reaches 165 degrees," Bombet replied.

Once everything is cooked and people have eaten their fill, there are usually leftovers. Those have to be handled properly as well to prevent people from getting sick from them.

If there is a big pot of turkey gumbo, for example, how should it be cooled and put into the refrigerator?

"When you break out a large Magnalite pot like I would do, then you want to make sure that you follow the chill steps and this is so key. You can add ice as an ingredient. You can put it into an ice bath surrounded by ice. You can also break it down in smaller containers and then put it into the refrigerator. But, it's critical that it reaches that 70 to 40-degree temperature in that four-hour time frame. For that cool step, you want to make sure that this is held at 40 degrees or less. Forty degrees or less, that will slowly reduce the bacterial growth," Bombet answered.

It is probably not the best idea to grab those rags that have been used maybe for the last week, because those can hold bacteria, can't they?

"Most definitely. When we go back to clean, which is our first step and our last, we want to make sure that we're not wiping our hands on a dirty rag that's been near the protein products and that type of thing. So, you want to make sure you put it into a chlorine bleach solution or use a disposable type that you can discard after use," Bombet said.

We wish everyone a Merry Christmas, as well as a safe and clean one. Remember to keep a clean kitchen for the holiday festivities.

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