The Partnership for Food Safety Education recommends four steps to protect your safety and health when handling food: clean, separate, cook and chill.
- Clean –– The basic rule in the kitchen is to wash your hands and kitchen surfaces frequently. That means before and after preparing or serving foods to reduce risk of contamination and foodborne illness.
- Separate –– Be sure to keep raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs separate from other foods to avoid cross-contamination from bacteria, which can make you sick. Use different work areas, plates, cutting boards and utensils for raw meats and seafood, cooked foods and fruits and vegetables.
- Cook –– Use a food thermometer to ensure food is cooked thoroughly to a safe internal temperature. This kills many harmful bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella, which can cause foodborne illnesses.
Be sure to check the temperature of meat, poultry and casseroles by inserting a meat thermometer in several places.
- Chill –– Don't keep perishables out for longer than two hours. It's best to thaw foods in the refrigerator, microwave or in a bowl of cold water in the sink, not on the counter. Make sure to cook food thawed in cold water or the microwave immediately. Always marinate food in the refrigerator.
Hot foods should immediately be placed in the refrigerator for safe storage, because cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria.
Check the temperature in your refrigerator periodically. It should be 40° F or below to prevent the growth of most bacteria. Also, make sure your refrigerator is not overly full to allow the air to circulate. Don't store perishable foods inside the refrigerator door, because the temperature in this area often fluctuates. For example, eggs should be stored in the carton on a shelf.
Other Quick Storage Tips
- Don't store foods under the sink where leaks can occur.
- You should also keep certain dry foods such as flour, oatmeal, rice, pet food and loose pasta from opened packages in closed containers to keep out unwanted critters.
- Write the date on containers of leftovers so you'll be sure to eat them before they spoil. Most leftovers will keep safe in the refrigerator for three to four days, but be sure to check them daily for odor, mold, discoloration or other signs of spoilage. A safe bet? If something looks or smells suspicious, toss it.
- When storing leftovers, separate large quantities into shallow containers so they chill quickly.
Additional Tips for Preparing and Cooking Food
- Always practice safety when cooking and baking. Turn pot handles in, away from burners, and keep flame-resistant pot holders nearby.
- Keep children and pets several feet from the stove. The fewer people in the kitchen, the fewer bumps, spills and possible burns that can occur. Ask others to socialize or play elsewhere.
- Don't cook in long, loose-sleeved clothing. It can catch fire easily. If you have long hair, tie it back.
- When using a knife, always cut away from your body and on a stable surface.
- Use clean platters of food for each round of serving. You may want to prepare these in advance, and store them in the refrigerator. Serve platters of cold foods on the buffet in trays containing ice.
© 2013. National Women's Health Resource Center, Inc. All rights reserved. All content provided in this guide is for information purposes only. Any information herein relating to specific medical conditions, preventive care and/or healthy lifestyles does not suggest individual diagnosis or treatment and is not a substitute for medical attention.Back to Clean Kitchen Guide Home Page
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