Perhaps the most important foundation of cooking, food safety helps ensure great-tasting food, a clean environment, and avoidance of illness. Most food borne illness is caused by mishandling of food. Here are five steps to ensure that your food is safe to eat.
Five Rules of Food Safety
In the store, buy perishable items last, and avoid buying items that you won't use before the expiration date. Don't buy cans or glass jars with dents, cracks or bulging lids. At home, follow this cardinal rule: When in doubt, throw it out.
Keep Foods Chilled
Set your refrigerator to no higher than 40F and your freezer to 0F. As soon as you return home from shopping, refrigerate or freeze perishables. If you won't use meat, poultry, or fish within a few days, freeze it. When refrigerating raw meats, poultry, or fish, leave them in the store's packaging (when possible) and place in a shallow pan so that the food's juices are contained. When defrosting and marinating, do so in the refrigerator rather than on countertops. For more even cooking, remove marinated foods from the fridge during the last 20 minutes to bring to room temperature.
Wash your hands with hot, soapy water before and after handling food, and especially after using the restroom, changing diapers, and playing with pets. Use hot, soapy water on all dishes, utensils, and work surfaces as well. Soak cutting boards in a mild chlorine bleach solution and replace cutting boards with deep cuts, which could harbor bacteria. Kitchen towels should be washed in the hot cycle of your washing machine, and sponges should be washed in hot water or put in the dishwasher daily to kill bacteria.
Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs away from ready-to-eat foods. When preparing food, cut vegetables and salads ingredients first, then raw meats and poultry. After preparing raw meat, wash all cutting boards, utensils, and work surfaces with hot, soapy water. Be careful to avoid placing cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry, eggs, or seafood (unless the plate has been cleaned). When soaking up meat and poultry juices, use disposable towels instead of sponges. Discard all unused marinades or, if using, bring to a boil first to kill bacteria.
Use a Thermometer
To be certain that food has cooked to a safe temperature, use an instant-read thermometer and check the doneness. Avoid eating uncooked meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. When reheating leftovers, make sure that they reach a temperature of at least 165F.