Here are simple ways to make safety a priority in the kitchen
With all the emphasis these days on healthy eating, it’s important to remember that in many ways how you prepare your food is as important as what you prepare. We’re coming up on National Food Safety Education Month in September, so here are ten tips for protecting yourself and your guests on the food front:
- Does this taste funny? If you think a food or beverage item has expired, don’t taste it to see if it’s spoiled. You can get food poisoning from even one taste. Even if it smells and tastes okay, there’s some harmful bacteria that you can’t detect by taste, smell, or sight. Instead, discard food before bacteria has a chance to grow.
- Keep it clean! Foodborne pathogens from raw proteins can easily spread to other foods and cause food poisoning. To avoid cross-contamination (infecting one item with bacteria from another), use separate plates and cutting boards for raw meat, poultry, and seafood, and don’t re-use them for foods that are already cooked or ready to eat—unless you wash them in between with soap and hot water. Use separate utensils for raw foods as well.
- Cook completely. Cook meats to an internal temperature of 145°F, at a minimum, which you can measure with a food thermometer (while the meat is still in the oven or on the grill). Cook ground meat to an internal temperature of 160°F.
- Keep it cool! Thawing food at room temperature may seem efficient, but you run the risk of harmful foodborne pathogens. Invisible to the naked eye, these microorganisms can grow quickly at as low a temperature as 40°F. To be safe, thaw your foods in the fridge, a bowl of cold water, or the microwave.
- Bath time—but only for fruits and veggies. Avoid rinsing raw meat before cooking. You could transfer any bacteria that’s already there to your sink, counter, or other areas. Save the washing for fruits and veggies.
- Cookout or tailgating? Don’t forget the ice! Enjoy the outside eating, but make sure to store cooked food in a cooler that’s insulated, or at least pack the food in some ice or cold packs.
- Off the counter and into the fridge. Put all perishable food items into the fridge within two hours of cooking or exposure to room temperature. If the food’s temperature is above 90°F, it should go in the fridge within an hour.
- Just say no to raw cookie dough! It may be a tempting treat, but raw cookie dough—and other foods with uncooked eggs—can contain harmful bacteria like salmonella. Bad news: Even if you’re not using eggs, you should still avoid the raw dough. It could contain E. coli, which can also cause serious illness.
- Wash and repeat. A lesson from preschool that we should all remember: Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds (long enough to sing the alphabet song), using soap and warm, running water. Wash your hands before you begin to prepare food, but also throughout your time in the kitchen—especially after handling raw meat, bagging up the trash, blowing your nose, scratching your head, etc.
- Ditch the dish rag regularly. Sponges and dish rags can be some of the dirtiest items in your kitchen. For the best protection against germs, replace your sponge or dish rag every week or two. (You can microwave your sponge or run it through a hot cycle of the dishwasher for longer lives. Machine wash dish rags in hot water.)
To have meals worth remembering—for all the right reasons!—follow these simple guidelines. It’s not that much extra work to keep things clean, separated, well-cooked, and properly chilled!
This article is part of the weekly blog of the Salter School. We offer several different professional training programs at our campuses in Malden and Fall River, MA. Reach out to us today for more information or to schedule a campus tour!