When it comes to your family and friends, you don’t joke around about safety! Food safety is no exception. Read below for all the information you need to take protective measures in the kitchen to keep your guests happy, your meals healthy, and your food-poisoning concerns at bay.
Bacteria are living things and like us they prefer a certain temperature range. The time-temperature danger zone is the range during which they are able to thrive and reproduce, turning your carefully prepared meal into a disaster waiting to happen to whoever eats it. This temperature range is between 40°F and 140°F. Make sure to hold food above or below these temperatures while serving to prevent harmful bacterial growth. After a dish has been within this range of the danger zone for four or more hours it should be discarded. It is a good idea to have a food thermometer in your kitchen’s arsenal to remove all doubt of where your food falls on that temperature range.
Different foods will have different minimum cooking temperatures to ensure harmful bacteria has been killed.
According to the FDA:
|Category||Food||Temperature (°F)||Rest Time|
|Ground Meat & Meat Mixtures||Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb||160||None|
|Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb||Steaks, roasts, chops||145||3 minutes|
|Poultry||Chicken & Turkey, whole||165||None|
|Poultry breasts, roasts||165||None|
|Poultry thighs, legs, wings||165||None|
|Duck & Goose||165||None|
|Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird)||165||None|
|Pork and Ham||Fresh pork||145||3 minutes|
|Fresh ham (raw)||145||3 minutes|
|Precooked ham (to reheat)||140||None|
|Eggs & Egg Dishes||Eggs||Cook until yolk and white are firm||None|
|Leftovers & Casseroles||Leftovers||165||None|
|Seafood||Fin Fish||145 or cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.||None|
|Shrimp, lobster, and crabs||Cook until flesh is pearly and opaque.||None|
|Clams, oysters, and mussels||Cook until shells open during cooking.||None|
|Scallops||Cook until flesh is milky white or opaque and firm.||None|
Over time kitchen counters and sinks can build up bacteria from food preparation. One teaspoon of liquid chlorine bleach per quart of clean water will make a solution that can be used to wipe down surfaces. Don’t forget to also clean the sinks and handles on cabinets, fridges, and ovens. Change out sponges and rags frequently to prevent carry-over bacteria transfer from previous meals.
Washing Hands in Between Foods
Different foods will harbor different kinds of bacteria, and while some of these foods will be cooked to the point that these pathogens will be neutralized, cross-contaminating raw meat with a salad, for example, poses a major health concern. Meat is typically at the highest risk of containing harmful bacteria, so it is crucial to wash every hand, surface, and utensil it has touched before moving on with food preparation.
Make sure to use separate utensils or take the time and precautions to properly sanitize utensils before moving between foods. One tactic is to color coordinate utensils. Try buying differently colored boards and knives with colored handles to reduce the risk of using the wrong knife on the wrong food.
Organizing the fridge
When organizing your refrigerator, try to keep in mind that spills and drips will sometimes go unnoticed. By placing food items from top to bottom as less likely to most likely to contaminate other foods with pathogens, respectively, you can avoid the risk of cross contamination.
Top shelf: Ready to eat items (i.e. prepackaged foods, beverages, etc.)
Middle shelf: Eggs, milk, and dairy
Bottom shelf: meats (including poultry and fish)
Throwing out leftovers
Just as with the minimum cooking temperatures, different foods will have varying maximum hold dates before they run the risk of growing pathogenic organisms. It can be difficult to keep a mental note of how long those leftovers have been sitting in the fridge. To combat this problem you may try keeping a notepad or calendar on the refrigerator and marking when meals were made, or you can keep a roll of tape and a marker near the fridge to date and stick to containers.