Basic Rules For Safe Food Preparation
What is the first rule of safe food preparation in the home?
Keep It Clean
The first cardinal rule of safe food preparation in the home is: Keep everything clean.
The cleanliness rule applies to the areas where food is prepared and, most importantly, to the cook. Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before starting to prepare a meal and after handling raw meat or poultry. Cover long hair with a net or scarf, and be sure that any open sores or cuts on the hands are completely covered. If the sore or cut is infected, stay out of the kitchen.
Keep the work area clean and uncluttered. Wash countertops with a solution of 5 milliliters (1 teaspoon) of chlorine bleach to about 1 liter (1 quart) of water or with a commercial kitchen cleaning agent diluted according to product directions. They're the most effective at getting rid of bacteria.
Also, be sure to keep dishcloths and sponges clean because, when wet, these materials harbor bacteria and may promote their growth. Wash dishcloths and sponges weekly in hot water in the washing machine.
While you're at it, sanitize the kitchen sink drain periodically by pouring down the sink a solution of 5 milliliters of bleach to 1 liter of water or a commercial kitchen cleaning agent. Food particles get trapped in the drain and disposal and, along with moistness, create an ideal environment for bacterial growth.
Use smooth cutting boards made of hard maple or plastic and free of cracks and crevices. Avoid boards made of soft, porous materials. Wash cutting boards with hot water, soap, and a scrub brush. Then, sanitize them in an automatic dishwasher or by rinsing with a solution of 5 milliliters of chlorine bleach to about 1 liter of water.
Always wash and sanitize cutting boards after using them for raw foods, such as seafood or chicken, and before using them for ready-to-eat foods. Consider using one cutting board only for foods that will be cooked, such as raw fish, and another only for ready-to-eat foods, such as bread, fresh fruit, and cooked fish.
Always use clean utensils and wash them between cutting different foods.
Wash the lids of canned foods before opening to keep dirt from getting into the food. Also, clean the blade of the can opener after each use. Food processors and meat grinders should be taken apart and cleaned as soon as possible after they are used.
Do not put cooked meat on an unwashed plate or platter that has held raw meat.
Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly, rinsing in warm water. Don't use soap or other detergents. If necessary--and appropriate--use a small scrub brush to remove surface dirt.
What is the second rule of safe food preparation in the home?
Keep Temperature Right
The second cardinal rule of safe home food preparation is: Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
Use a thermometer with a small-diameter stem to ensure that meats are completely cooked. Insert the thermometer 1 to 2 inches into the center of the food and wait 30 seconds to ensure an accurate measurement. Beef (including ground beef), lamb, and pork should be cooked to at least 71 C (160 F); whole poultry and thighs to 82 C (180 F); poultry breasts to 77 C (170 F); and ground chicken or turkey to 74 C (165 F). Don't eat poultry that is pink inside.
Eggs should be cooked until the white and the yolk are firm. Avoid foods containing raw eggs, such as homemade ice cream, mayonnaise, eggnog, cookie dough, and cake batter, because they carry a Salmonella risk. Their commercial counterparts usually don't because they're made with pasteurized eggs. Cooking the egg-containing product to an internal temperature of at least 71 C (160 F) will kill the bacteria.
Seafood should be thoroughly cooked. FDA's 1999 Food Code recommends cooking most seafood to an internal temperature of 63 C (145 F) for 15 seconds. If you don't have a meat thermometer, look for other signs of doneness. For example:
Fish is done when the thickest part becomes opaque and the fish flakes easily when poked with a fork.
Shrimp can be simmered three to five minutes or until the shells turn red.
Clams and mussels are steamed over boiling water until the shells open (five to 10 minutes). Then boil three to five minutes longer.
Oysters should be sautôed, baked or boiled until plump, about five minutes.
Protect food from cross-contamination after cooking, and eat it promptly.
Cooked foods should not be left standing on the table or kitchen counter for more than two hours. Disease-causing bacteria grow in temperatures between 4 and 60 C (40 and 140 F). Cooked foods that have been in this temperature range for more than two hours should not be eaten.
If a dish is to be served hot, get it from the stove to the table as quickly as possible. Reheated foods should be brought to a temperature of at least 74 C (165 F). Keep cold foods in the refrigerator or on a bed of ice until serving. This rule is particularly important to remember in the summer months.
After the meal, leftovers should be refrigerated as soon as possible. (Never mind that scintillating dinner table conversation!)
Meats should be cut in slices of three inches or less and all foods should be stored in small, shallow containers to hasten cooling. Be sure to remove all the stuffing from roast turkey or chicken and store it separately. Giblets should also be stored separately. Leftovers should be used within three days.
And here are just a few more parting tips to keep your favorite dishes safe. Don't thaw meat and other frozen foods at room temperature. Instead, move them from the freezer to the refrigerator for a day or two; or defrost submerged in cold water flowing fast enough to break up and float off loose particles in an overflow. You can also defrost in the microwave oven, or during the cooking process. Never taste any food that looks or smells "off," or comes out of leaking, bulging or severely damaged cans or jars with leaky lids.
Though all these do's and don'ts may seem overwhelming, remember, if you want to stay healthy, when it comes to food safety, the old saying "rules are made to be broken" does not apply!
If I forget to follow some of the basic food safety rules, won't heating or reheating foods kill foodborne bacteria?
To be safe, always follow the 4 Cs of Food Safety rules when preparing, serving, and cooking foods. Proper heating and reheating will kill foodborne bacteria. However, some foodborne bacteria produce poisons or toxins that are not destroyed by high cooking temperatures if the food is left out at room temperature for an extended period of time. An example is the foodborne bacteria Staphylococcus. This bacterium produces a toxin that can develop in cooked foods that sit out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
One of the food safety rules is to wash hands in hot, soapy water. Does hot water kill bacteria?
Hot water that is comfortable for washing hands is not hot enough to kill bacteria. The body oils on your hands hold soils and bacteria, so hot or warm, soapy water is more effective than cold, soapy water at removing those oily soils and the bacteria in them.
Why is it unsafe to marinate foods at room temperature? Doesn't the acid in the marinade kill any bacteria that might be present?
Bacteria grow rapidly at room temperature, so for food safety purposes, food should always be refrigerated while marinating. (Refrigeration slows bacterial growth.) Marinade that has been used on raw meat, poultry, and seafood contains raw juices. These juices may contain bacteria that, if
How often should you sanitize your kitchen sink drains and disposal?
The kitchen sink drain, disposal and connecting pipe are often overlooked, but they should be sanitized periodically by pouring down the sink a solution of 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) of chlorine bleach in 1 quart (about 1 liter) of water or a solution of commercial kitchen cleaning agent made according to product directions. Food particles get trapped in the drain and disposal and, along with the moistness, create an ideal environment for bacterial growth.
What is the safest way to defrost meat, poultry, and fish products?
Food safety experts recommend thawing foods in the refrigerator or the microwave oven or putting the package in a water-tight plastic bag submerged in cold water and changing the water every 30 minutes. Changing the water ensures that the food is kept cold, an important factor for slowing bacterial growth that may occur on the outer thawed portions while the inner areas are still thawing. When microwaving, follow package directions. Leave about 2 inches (about 5 centimeters) between the food and the inside surface of the microwave to allow heat to circulate. Smaller items will defrost more evenly than larger pieces of food. Foods defrosted in the microwave oven should be cooked immediately after thawing. Do not thaw meat, poultry and fish products on the counter or in the sink without cold water; bacteria can multiply rapidly at room temperature.
What is the best way to clean kitchen counters?
Bleach and commercial kitchen cleaning agents are the best sanitizers--provided they're diluted according to product directions. They're the most effective at getting rid of bacteria. Hot water and soap does a good job, too, but may not kill all strains of bacteria. Water may get rid of visible dirt, but not bacteria. Also, be sure to keep dishcloths and sponges clean because, when wet, these materials harbor bacteria and may promote their growth.