I don't usually roast whole chickens. They look a bit yucky inside. Should I rinse them? M. Flett
No! Chickens are repositories for salmonella, and washing them will spread the bugs around your prep surfaces like a miniature version of 28 Days. Pat chooks dry with paper towel, fill the cavity with stuffing (optional), oil the skin, salt, then roast. After preparing raw chicken, wash chopping boards, knives, benches, hands, etc. The heat used to properly cook a roast chook will kill the bugs.
How do I defrost prawns? S. Wojcik
In the fridge, not on the bench. Spread the frozen prawns out in a container or large tray and thaw them in the refrigerator for 24 hours. There's a lot of debate about the merits of frozen versus fresh prawns. Almost all prawns sold in supermarkets and fishmongers are frozen straight after harvest or after being cooked. If a prawn caught off the coast of Queensland wasn't frozen, it would be at least three days old by the time it hit the shelves and would have begun to blacken. Look for plump prawns that appear tight in the shell. Cook thawed raw prawns on the grill or in salted boiling water until they change colour. Refresh in salted iced water. Serve thawed cooked prawns as they are.
How do I know my turkey stuffing is done? P. Lavigne
This is the season to treat yourself to a meat thermometer. The heat from your oven must get through a lot of meat and bone before it cooks the stuffing. If it's made with sausage or raw egg, it really needs to hit that crucial 65C mark to make sure it's safe to gobble up.
How long can I keep my ham? L. Baker
In the frenzy of cooking on Christmas Day, it is easy to remove the wrapper and carelessly discard it like a bodice in a Mills and Boon novel. The wrapper will have critical information about how long the ham will last after opening. Some hams are prepared with less salt and preservatives than others, so the use-by period will differ. Soak a tea towel, a large square of calico or a ham bag in water with a good slug of white vinegar, wring it out well, then wrap the opened ham and store in the fridge under 5C. Change the cloth frequently.
How long can I keep food out before it becomes a food poisoning risk? P. Clay
If you want to avoid giving your long-staying uncle food poisoning, put leftovers in the fridge once you're done with them. Food kept at room temperature for up to two hours is safe to pack, refrigerate and serve later. Food kept at room temperature for between two to four hours should be eaten and not stored for later use. Food that has been on the table for longer than four hours should be discarded. Leftover cooked food should be reheated to at least 75C. Keep an eye on rare meat, particularly poultry, and undercooked eggs in warmer weather. The Food Safety Information Council suggests you steer clear of using raw eggs in anything, as they are a good vector for salmonella. They suggest clearing out the fridge before Christmas Day. I always have an Esky on standby, packed with ice, ready to handle the excess food. Remember, the bugs that cause food poisoning don't create an odour.