By Laura Craven
Americans are staying home and cooking for themselves these days. For some people, cooking provides an enjoyable and even adventurous way to spend time with their families. For others, the kitchen is unknown territory and they must find instructions on YouTube before making mac and cheese. No matter your level of culinary skill, there is one aspect of home cooking that everyone should bone up on and that is food safety.
There are four simple steps to follow and practice food safety at home.
- CLEAN – Wash hands, utensils, and surfaces often
- Wash your hands with soap and water, including the back of your hands, wrists, and under your fingernails, for 20 seconds. Wash before and after handling raw food and before serving.
- Wash cutting boards, mixing bowls, dishes, and utensils with hot water and dish detergent after each use. Clean counters often using kitchen sanitizer or hot, soapy water, especially after prepping raw food.
- Launder dish cloths in hot water and use fresh cloths between tasks.
- Wash fruits and vegetables under running water and dry with a paper towel or clean dish cloth.
- Do not wash meat, poultry, eggs, or pre-washed produce.
- SEPARATE – Do not cross contaminate
- When shopping, separate raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other groceries in your cart. Make sure these items are bagged separately at check out.
- Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood well-wrapped and separated from other items in your refrigerator or freezer.
- Store eggs in the original container in the main refrigerator compartment, not the door.
- Use different cutting boards for produce and raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
- Use separate plates, bowls, and utensils for raw and cooked food.
- COOK – Cook food to the right temperature
- Food is safely cooked when the internal temperature is high enough to kill germs that can make people sick.
- Use a food thermometer to be sure your food is cooked thoroughly. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the food and not touching the bone.
- Follow the minimum cooking temperatures listed on the thermometer or on this chart.
- Keep food hot (140° F or above) after cooking. Bacteria can start to multiply when food falls below 140° F.
- When using a microwave, be sure to follow directions to ensure the food is thoroughly cooked. If instructions include a standing time after cooking, allow the food to rest. This enables the heat to spread evenly.
- CHILL – Refrigerate perishable foods within 2 hours
- Bacteria that causes food poisoning multiplies quickest between 40° F and 140° F, this is referred to as the Danger Zone.
- Make sure your refrigerator is set at 40° F or below and your freezer at 0° F or below. Check using an appliance thermometer.
- Leftovers should be placed in shallow containers to allow for quicker cooling, especially large batches of hot sauces and soups, and placed in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Do not thaw or marinate food on the counter. Keep food in the refrigerator until ready to cook.
- The door is the warmest area of the refrigerator. Use those shelves for items such as water, soda, and condiments. Do not store milk in the door.
- Write the date of any stored leftovers on the bag or container and follow a food storage time chart. When in doubt, throw it out!
This is the first in a series of blogs dedicated to sharing food-safety best practices for your home from your friends at Imperial Dade.