Food & Wine: What to do with your Christmas leftovers

‘Tis the season to be jolly - not queasy.

Tucking into a baked turkey or juicy Christmas ham might be a great Aussie tradition, but if a cook is not careful, it can come at a grisly price.

Whether you entertain friends and family at a backyard barbecue or picnic in the park, following food safety practices will have them reaching for seconds, rather than the sick bucket.

To avoid a culinary catastrophe, the NSW Food Authority recommends everyone follow a number of simple rules when preparing, cooking and storing our favourite festive foods.

Christmas hams - which can keep for several weeks with proper handling - should be stored in the fridge in  a special ham bag or clean cotton pillowcase (this needs to be changed, or washed and dried, every three days).

Leftover sliced ham can be stored, covered, in the fridge for up to three days, but should not be consumed by pregnant women, the sick or elderly without being thoroughly reheated.

If turkey is on the lunch menu, be sure to defrost it safely in the fridge (which can take up to three days).

Sit in a dish to ensure no fluid from the thawing process drips onto other items in the fridge. Like chicken, it should be cooked all the way through before consumption.

For barbecues, sausages, patties and poultry should be cooked all the way through, until no blood is present.

If meat cooked on the barbecue is to be eaten later, it should be kept cold until it can be placed in a fridge.

No cooked foods or salads should be left out for more than two hours, particularly in warm weather, which promotes the spread of bacteria.

NSW Food Authority’s tips on keeping food safe this festive season:

■Don’t prepare foods too far in advance of eating.

■Always separate raw and cooked food.

■Remember to wash your hands thoroughly in hot soapy water and dry them before preparing food and after touching raw meat.

■Do not prepare food for yourself or others if you are ill, especially if suffering from diarrhoea.

■Keep pets and animals out of the kitchen.

■Thoroughly clean all utensils, equipment, surfaces and tea towels after preparing raw food and before contact with other food.

■Minimise the amount of time food is left at room temperature. Never leave foods in the ‘‘temperature danger zone’’ (between 5 degrees and 60 degrees) for longer than two hours.

■Do not overload refrigerators, as this reduces cooling efficiency. Keep cold air vents clear. Avoid frequently opening and closing the fridge door to help maintain the cool temperature inside (a temperature of 5 degrees or less will slow bacteria growth).

■Store seafood, raw meat and chicken at the bottom of the fridge so it can’t drip onto other foods.

■Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible. Only keep refrigerated leftovers for three days and reheat until steaming hot.

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