- safe food preparation
25 Tips for Safe Food Preparation
Food safety tips are something we all grow up hearing, but we often forget. This list of 25 safe food preparation tips isn’t everything you need to know to keep the kitchen and your food safe, but it’s a great place to get started.
Wash Your Hands…A Lot
Almost everyone remembers to wash their hands before they cook…and if you don’t, well, just don’t invite me over for dinner. But there’s more to it than washing up before you get started. Cross-contamination in the kitchen is a big deal. Don’t forget to wash your hands after touching raw meat, fish, or poultry, or cracking an egg, touching your face, adjusting your hair, you get the idea. Wash. A lot.
Know Your Safe Food Storage Temps
Bad bacteria love to grow between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s like Maui for microbes. Keep your food safe by serving and storing food either below or above these temperatures.
Cook to the Right Degree
Safe food temps matter when you cook, too. Make sure you cook your meat, poultry, fish, and eggs to a safe temperature before eating, and keep in mind that meat and poultry may raise 3-5 degrees after you pull them out of the oven, but you need to make sure they hit a safe temp before you dig in.
Don’t Cut Yourself!
Blood and food should never mix. When you chop veggies, fruits, herbs, and the like, curl your fingertips under your knuckles to avoid cutting yourself while keeping the food stable. Cut away from yourself. Use a sharp knife to avoid slipping, and if you do get cut, throw out the food and wash up immediately. Bandage yourself quickly and carefully, and use a latex, rubber, or impermeable plastic glove to keep your blood from getting into the food.
Leave Some Headspace
Safe canning requires a little headroom for your canned goods. Check out the canning safety recommendations from the University of Minnesota 1, and leave the right amount of headspace for your foods.
Skip the Soap
Rinse your fruits and veggies under cool running water before you peel, cut, or eat them, but don’t use soap. Many soaps contain chemicals that can provoke diarrhea – not fun. If you want to get your veggies and fruits extra clean, a vinegar rinse works wonders. Dilute 1 part vinegar in 3 parts water and soak your produce in the mix for 2 minutes. Rinse again, and enjoy!
Keep School Lunches Safe
Safe food temps apply for kids’ lunches, too. Make sure you send either shelf stable snacks like dehydrated fruits and vegetables, or use proper storing and heating/cooling containers. Freeze an organic juice box and pack it with cold foods, or send soups and hot entrees in a thermos, inside an insulated bag.
Color Code the Kitchen
Use different color cutting boards for different food groups. In my house, we use yellow for chicken, green for produce, white for fish, and red for meat, with plain bamboo for cheese. You can buy color-coded cutting boards in a variety of colors, sizes, and materials, from bamboo to glass – you don’t have to use plastic, and if you’re like me, I know you won’t want to!
Select Cold Foods Last
In the grocery store, things can be a real free for all, and keeping focused can be difficult. Shop on the outer rim of the store to get the healthier items – proteins and produce barely ever make it into the middle of a store – and choose items that need to be kept cold last to prevent them from slipping into unsafe temperatures before you get the home and into the fridge.
Don’t Be Lazy
Cooking is hard work. Keep your kitchen a little safer by storing leftovers and items you’ve finished using for a recipe immediately. Don’t wait until after the meal – you’re just encouraging pathogens to have a feast in your food when you wait to store it.
Skip Processed Meat
Now linked to a wide range of health problems including cancer and intestinal illnesses, conventionally processed meats are not your friend. They’re a common culprit in listeria infections, and are also loaded with nitrites, nitrates, and preservatives. Traditionally cured sausages, on the other hand, can be a healthy addition to your diet.
Exercise your body, exercise portion control, and exercise moderation. One of the biggest food-related dangers we face in the modern era is obesity. It doesn’t strike as quickly as an infection, but it’s equally deadly.
Step Away from the Hamburger
…if you bought it at a fast-food joint. If it’s homemade, by all means, munch away! Processed foods are a real menace, and contain so much fat, sugar, and salt, you’d be appalled if you tried to eat them without the added colorings, flavorings, and chemicals used to make them more ‘palatable’ and addictive. You don’t want to know what your body feels when it’s downing some of that junk, but if you are curious, check out this article on what happens to your body after you eat junk food 2. The true cost of junk food is much too high.
Don’t Trust Your Nose
Smell isn’t how you know if a food is good or bad. If it smells bad, however, pitch it.
And Definitely Don’t Taste-Test
Follow the mantra “when in doubt, throw it out.” No matter how good it looks, if it could be bad it’s not worth a hospital trip to find out. Food poisoning is a serious issue.
There’s a reason your mother always told you not to double-dip. No one else wants your germs. And definitely don’t lick a spoon or knife while cooking and keep using it to prepare food….ew.
Little kids and sleep adults might easily mistake dangerous chemicals for food or drink if they’re stored in cabinets that also contain food. Not to mention the fact that chemicals leak, and your coconut flour might wind up tasting like window cleaner if you aren’t careful. Keep cleaning products in a separate cabinet, just to be safe.
Take it one step further, and use vinegar, baking soda and lemon to do your cleaning, and you won’t have to worry about toxins in the food or in your home.
Keep Chill in Bad Weather
Storm on the horizon? Make sure you’ve got plenty of nonperishable food items on hand, and freeze a jug of water in your freezer, too – to help keep the rest of your freezer items cool in case of a blackout.
Better Yet, Always Keep Your Cool
Install thermometers in your fridge and freezer to make sure both stay below 40 Fahrenheit.
Don’t sneeze into food you’re cooking. Turn away and cover your nose. Then go wash your hands. Please?
Cover That Cough
When you cough, droplets of spit go hurling several feet across the room. It’s the same when you sneeze, actually…and no one wants to eat that. Cover your cough, and wash up immediately after.
Send Them to the Bottom
Store uncooked meat, poultry, or fish in the freezer. When you thaw or marinate them, keep them on the bottom of the fridge to avoid cross-contamination. Keep that in mind this Thanksgiving – and remember that a fridge thaw is the safest practice. Don’t stick your turkey on the counter, no matter how tempting it might be. Let it take a full 2-4 days (if not more) to that in the fridge, even if the space is cramped.
Eat Out Carefully
When you feel like a bite on the
town, choose carefully. If your state has restaurant grades or ratings
available to the public, make sure you know what they are. And yes, there’s an
app for that.
Many food establishments stay open despite numerous food safety violations. While having a tough gut and a diverse microbiome is a good thing, you don’t want to find out what happens to your body when you’ve got shigella…
Speaking of Microbiomes…
Keep yours healthy and ready to fight invaders by eating plenty of probiotics like fermented vegetables and drinking your fair share in the form of kombucha, kefir, yogurt, and the like. The best defense is a good offense, as the saying goes.
Keep it Clean
Slips, falls, and resulting cuts and burns are common kitchen injuries. Keep your kitchen safe by cleaning up spills when they happen. And while you’re at it, childproof if you’ve got little ones, and never leave anything on the stove unattended. Oh, and keep a box of baking soda by the stove to douse grease fires, just in case.
Interested in finding more tips to keep your kitchen and family food safe? Check out the following resources:
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