Kitchen Safety 101
By Genesis Davies
With recent E. coli outbreaks in the U.S., people are suddenly paying a lot more attention to their food. Which is just as it should be. Although it nourishes us, the food we put into our bodies can be very dangerous if not handled correctly.
There are a few things the average home cook needs to keep in mind when preparing food for the family or friends. With just a little precaution, you can ensure that the food you serve is completely safe.
1. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. The dangerous temperature zone for food is between 41º F and 140º F. This is the temperature range that encourages rapid bacteria growth and food should not be maintained at this temperature, either raw or cooked.
2. Be sure to wash your hands and the preparation surface before beginning to prepare your food. This is very important, since you can easily transfer bacteria and germs from other areas (such as doorknobs, bathroom faucets, etc.) to the food you are about to serve.
3. Disinfect fruit and vegetables. You might assume that the lettuce you bought in the supermarket is perfectly clean, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. All fruits and vegetables should be cleaned. You can add a couple drops of bleach to a bowl of water and let the whole veggies sit in it for about 5-10 minutes, or you can use a commercial vegetable wash.
4. Make sure your food is cooked to a safe temperature by using a meat thermometer. Meat is especially vulnerable to dangerous bacterial growth which will survive if not heated enough. Here are the safe internal temperatures for each type of meat:
- Poultry and stuffing: 165º F
- Pork: 145º F
- Seafood, beef and lamb: 145º F
- Ground beef: 155º F
5. Don’t let raw food contaminate cooked food. The cooked food is already safe, but if you use the same fork to transfer raw meat to the frying pan and then to lift the cooked meat, you have just contaminated the cooked meat. Also, raw food should always be stored on a lower shelf in the fridge than cooked. Separate plates or serving trays should always be used for cooked and raw food.
6. Reheat leftovers to boiling to avoid any problems. The microwave is ideal for reheating food because it automatically kills most bacteria and brings the food rapidly to a safe temperature.
By following the steps given above, you can ensure that your food is safe. There is no need to obsess about it, but taking precautionary measures means that you will stay healthy, and so will your family.