Few things represent the holidays more than food, but there is no need to stress about getting dishes on the table.

University of Richmond’s executive chef M. Glenn Pruden offers five cooking and food safety tips to help you survive the holiday season.

  1. Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator. Most turkeys only need about three days to thaw in the refrigerator. Avoid defrosting meat on the counter to reduce risk of bacteria growing on your dinner.
  2. Pack up the buffet early. Before you go into that turkey coma, put most of the food away. Leave some out for seconds (and thirds!). Hot or cold food left out for longer than four hours should be tossed.
  3. Spruce up your stuffing. “Add walnuts and cran-raisins for some crunch and a burst of sweetness,” Pruden suggests. His bonus tip – stuffing does not freeze well, so try and finish it up within the first two days. 
  4. Buy a bimetallic thermometer. You can find one online for as little as $5, and cooking your meat to the ideal internal temperature will significantly increase its quality. “Be sure to insert the thermometer into the   thickest part of the meat for the most accurate reading,” Pruden notes.
  5. Not all leftovers are made equal. You should not keep leftovers longer than seven days. “You may want to stick with the three to five day rule to be safe,” Pruden says. “Remember: if in doubt, throw it out.”

Pruden, Certified Executive Chef and American Academy of Chefs, has worked at the university for more than 35 years. In addition to being UR’s executive chef, he is the assistant director of Dining Services and an instructor in the university’s Center for Culinary Arts through the School of Professional and Continuing Studies.

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