Let’s talk Kitchen Basics: Part II – “Food Safety”
Through Part I, we covered the basic staples to stock in the kitchen, it seems only proper that before cooking any foods we discuss some ways in which to handle, store, defrost and maintain food safely.
Since food sickens millions of American each year this is a topic worthy of conversation. Food-borne illness can be prevented by keeping your kitchen clean, constantly washing your hands, and by using a little common sense. Don’t let your kitchen become a petri dish encouraging bacteria growth.
Most experienced cooks know to keep a kitchen spotless and have been taught the basics of food safety, either during their studies, or during a “lost” educational class known as home economics. It saddens me that schools have done away with such a life lesson, but schools have been forced to cutback due to lack of funding.
Thus to re-introduce the basics of food safety can only benefit the many who will begin to cook at home either by necessity, or as a hobby, or as I hope for enjoyment. Food these days is expensive so learning how to handle food safely will also aid in preventing food waste.
Even Panera Bread understands how food can bring people together. Did you know that during staff meetings they “Break Bread.” What does breaking bread mean? It simply means sharing a meal with a person or group, but the expression is a bit deeper than that. Although breaking bread has a biblical meaning. It is also a way to share friendship and a sense of camaraderie and trust. So invite your enemies to share a meal. Cooking and eating are also a great way to enhance quality time with our children, grandchildren, family and friends. Therefore, food safety should be as important to us cooks as our love is for those who will be eating our food, including ourselves.
Part II – Food Safety.
- Keep your hands clean. Always wash your hands prior to preparing a meal, during the meal preparation and after. Especially when handling raw meat, before handling and after handling raw meat is a must!
- Keep your food prep surfaces and utensils clean.
- Wash all cutting boards. (For me I have taken to like the industrial way of having a cutting board solely for certain foods. For example; I use four cutting boards. Seafood is blue, pork and chicken is yellow, Red meat is red, and vegetables is green and of course I keep them clean. I also wash them from time to time in a lemon juice wash). Never prepare food on the counter unless you have washed them well.
- NEVER put cooked food back onto a dish you had raw meat on.
- Change your kitchen sponges often.
- Change your kitchen towels daily.
- Make sure your refrigerator is about 35°F
- Make sure your freezer is below 0° and never above 2°
- Thaw all foods in the refrigerator or thaw under cold running water. (Which is how I defrost shrimp).
- Cooked foods should never sit out more than 2 hours.
- ALWAYS wash your fruits and vegetables before consumption.
These are the basics in food safety from here on you need to use your judgement. There is not much we can do about ingredients containing disease-causing bacteria, but to cook them well. It seems year after year some new basic rule is enacted that we must follow to keep our food safe. But common sense is going to be your best weapon.
Take every precaution if someone in your family is at a great risk of serious food-borne illness like the elderly, children infants, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.
We were once taught to wash our turkeys and chicken roasters. Now we are told not to do so because the splashing only causes a bigger risk of spreading illness-causing bacteria.
We use to love licking the beaters after our mom’s made cake or brownie mix. But now that is frowned on due to the batter containing raw eggs.
If you are looking to keep up with new food safety basics or are looking to extend your knowledge I would suggest checking out this site https://www.foodsafety.gov/