How TO Cook: Food safety

Now that we are working with raw eggs, making omelets and had our coffee I can bore you with a chat about food Safety. We are lucky enough in the United States to have probably over a dozen different agencies that are involved with protecting the safety and healthiness of food from the farm tot the table. These include but are certainly not limited to the USDA and FDA that help to enforce various rules and regulations that help insure a safe product on grocery store shelves or served restaurants. 

Why should the home cook be concerned then? Because there are still things that happen in nature naturally that are out of there control. Following proper procedures or guidelines when cooking help to keep your family and friends safe from getting a nasty stomach bug. Eww.  

Most bacterial contamination can be prevented with the proper care, handling and storage of fresh food. That big appliance in your kitchen that takes up SO much room is the refrigerator/freezer. To my surprise and dismay, it is not just there just to keep my beer cold (I really need to get myself a Kegerator for that)! In the United States we probably own the biggest refrigerators/freezers in the entire world. Why? Because we only go grocery shopping once a week or once a month if it’s a Cosco run. Therefore, we need someplace to keep all that fresh Dairy, Meat and Produce fresh and safe to eat!

Because bacteria grow and a much quicker rate the warmer it gets (usually between 40°F and 140°F) it’s a good idea to store our food in these chilly devices and keep the refrigerator at a temperature at between below 40° F (4° C) and 33° F 1° C). The freezer temperature should be set 0° F (-18° C). (Insert the picture of thermometer here)

There is some bacteria that are good. They help ferment wheat and barley into beer or grapes into wine. Cheese would not be cheese without it. Some bacteria are what make food spoil and smell bad.

Hand washing – Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto hands, cutting boards, utensils, counter tops and food. Cross-contamination is how bacteria can be spread from raw meat to raw vegetables. Always start with a clean surface. Wash your hands with warm soapy water and rinse and dry well. Wash cutting boards, dishes, countertops and utensils with hot soapy water. Restaurants often have their water temperature tested by regular inspections by the local health department to make sure it is hot enough to kill bacteria.

Wash your hands after handling any raw beef, poultry, fish or even eggs.

Wash you counters, cutting boards and knives after cutting any raw beef, poultry, fish.

I even clean my sponge in hot soapy water and then place it in the dishwasher with the dishes about three tiems a week. I also two use separate sponges. One is for dishes and the second is for counters tops and tables. I always prevent cross contamination by using a clean cutting board between preparing meat and vegetables.

All vegetables like potatoes and those green bell peppers we used for our omelet always need to be washed under cold water.        

Defrost frozen food in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave.

Keep hot food hot and cold foods cold! Do not let cooked items sit on the counter until they are cold and then serve them. Hot foods should never drop below 140 degrees before putting in refrigeration. 

Cold foods needs to keep cold just before serving. Do not leave potato salad out in the hot summer sun for 2 hours and then think you can eat it. You will not be going to work or school the next day. Food poisoning not only sucks because it hurts but it can be deadly if not taken seriously! Perishable foods should be brought home and placed in their proper locations in the refrigerator immediately. If you are shopping at multiple stores and your trip maybe longer than 30 minutes or it’s warm sunny day, bring a freezer bag or cooler with freezer packs to cold items until you get home. If your camping make sure, you have a cooler with plenty of ice and things are package appropriately so things like chop meat do not contaminate the lettuce and cheese you are using to make tacos!

For safe picnics and camping trips. Wash all thermal containers with hot soapy and rise well with hot water. You can wash all your vegetables even before packing them.

Use one cooler for food and a separate cooler for beverages. The beverage/beer cooler maybe be opened quiet often on a hot summer day. Place all raw meat in tightly wrapped in zip top bags to prevent them from dripping and contaminating other foods.

Remember to take your instant read food thermometer with you. That’s why you see all the chef’s with that round thermometer sticking out of their pocket. Its there for them to use and keep you healthy and safe. Not just because you want your steak medium rare. 

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