Practice Food Safety
Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen in a matter of seconds if you’re not careful. It’s important to learn ways to safely prepare food to avoid contaminating the things we eat. According to the USDA, there are four easy ways to practice food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.
Clean: Wash Hands and Surfaces
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food and after using the restroom. (Sing your ABC’s, and don’t forget to scrub your wrists, between fingers, and under fingernails).
- Wash cutting boards, utensils, dishes, and counter tops with soapy water after preparing each food item.
- Using paper towels helps to prevent cross contamination to clean up messes. Rags can easily hold onto bacteria that can be spread from surface to surface.
- Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under tab water. Rubbing coarse skinned produce with a vegetable brush can help get them squeaky clean. Soap isn’t necessary as it is not approved by the FDA for use on foods. Who wants to eat a soapy potato anyway?
- Washing raw meats before cooking it is not recommended. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other foods and surfaces causing cross-contamination.
Separate: Don’t Cross Contaminate
- The reason we separate foods is to prevent cross contamination. We don’t want our broccoli touching our raw chicken that may have salmonella on it. … even the juices. Keep it separate.
- Keep raw meats and juices away from foods that are ready to eat and away from produce.
- Use separate utensilis and cutting boards when prepping meat and veggies.
- Separate foods at the grocery store using the produce bags to wrap around meats
- If you touch raw meat, wash your hands before touching anything else. Never let raw meat touch ready to eat foods, or utensils you’ve used to prep raw meat to be used for other ready to eat items.
Cook: Temperature Matters
- Cook meats to a safe internal temperature to kill off any potential bacteria lingering on your meat.
- Never thaw food on the counter. Thaw under cold running water, in the refrigerator, or in the microwave. Thawing meat on the counter runs risk for the meat to be in the “time temperature danger zone” for too long, causing it to become a breeding ground for bacteria. According to the UDSA, “Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F, doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes. This range of temperatures is often called the "Danger Zone." Never leave food out of refrigeration over 2 hours.”
- Use a food thermometer when preparing meats to ensure they are at the right temperature.
- Poultry, leftovers, sauces and soups should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F.
- Ground meats should be cooked to 160°F. Remember, color is not a good indicator of doneness. Check those burgers!
- Cook beef, steak, fish, and pork to an internal temperature of 145°F.
- Cook like a PRO!
- Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat.
- Read the temperature.
- Off the heat, once the food has reached proper temperature.
Chill: Refrigerate Properly
- Cold temperatures slow the growth of bacteria; keep the fridge below 40°F and the freezer 0°F or below.
- Try not to over stuff storage containers or the refrigerator. Cold air needs to circulate food in order to cool properly. Leave at least 1 inch of space from your food to the top of your storage container.
- Don’t let meat, eggs, poultry, or fresh cut produce sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours. (one hour when you’re at the family 4th of July picnic and it’s over 90°F).
- Defrost frozen foods safely in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave.
Other tips that will help you stay safe in the kitchen include:
- Tie your hair back
- Remove long jewelry
- Check your sleeve length
- Don’t cook barefoot
- Keep knives separate when washing to prevent cuts
- Open a steamy pot away from you to prevent steam burns
- Always use hot pads or gloves when handling food from the oven
- Do not use metal utensils on non stick pots and pans, risk of chipping and contamination
- Store veggies above meat. Meat drippings in the refrigerator can fall on fresh produce, causing cross contamination.