This is part two in our Getting Started In the Kitchen series. See our first of the series Kitchen Tools here. Most of us have been messing around in the kitchen for years. We grab a piece of fruit and run it under the faucet for a couple seconds, wipe and eat. We peal a carrot then chop and toss into our recipe. We put a piece of chicken on the grill and go to make the sides. Are you doing it right? NOPE! Are there any tips we need to make sure we are doing it safely to ensure we all stay healthy? YEP! Read on for some good reminders.
Food is too expensive to let it go bad before you consume it. But we don’t want to do something that might make us or our loved ones sick because we didn’t prepare it correctly either.
Store items at home like you found them at the grocery store. If it s to be refrigerated (40* or below) make sure you temperatures or crisper drawers are set properly. Store like items together. In other words, don’t mix veggies with raw meats. If you have the space and the money to own several cutting boards, get one for vegetables, one for fruits, another for meats, and one for breads.
Make sure to clean shelves and drawers at least once a month to rid of germs and bacteria transferred from packaging, leaks and dirt. Wash your hands in hot soapy water frequently when prepping and cooking foods. Do it for more than 5 seconds – sing “Happy Birthday” to ensure all the bacteria is fully scrubbed away.
Fruits and vegetables such as melons, bananas, avocados, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and garlic don’t need to take up prime fridge real estate.
DAIRY & EGGS:
- Store milk, cheese and yogurts at 35-45*F. Put on a shelf that is not effected when the door is constantly being opened. Storing on the door exposes to warmer temperatures that encourage microbes to grow. This will make foods turn rancid.
- Butters should be stored in refrigerator to decrease bacterial contamination. You can, however, bring specific amounts of butter to room temperature with no safety concern while baking.
- Store bought eggs (not if you have chickens in your yard) are pasteurized to destroy salmonella. Therefore, they must be stored in the refrigerator. Do not put them on the door or remove them from the carton before use. Like butter, you can bring them to room temperature for baking purposes. Generally, eggs should be used within three weeks. You can do the egg test to make sure it is good. This really does work!
- Rinse all fruits and vegetables well. Scrub dirt and chemicals off under running warm water for at least 30 seconds.
Wash items you are going to peel. I know it may sound like it saves time since you are just getting rid of the outside layer anyway, but you run the risk of contaminating the flesh when you cut through the food that hasn’t been washed properly. You can transfer bacteria to the inside once it hits the blade. You can also cross-contaminate other food items when the skin being removed sits on the cutting board.
- Like I mentioned above, try to use separate cutting boards for meats/seafoods, produce, ready to eat item, etc. You can clean them in the dishwasher if care allows. Otherwise, use hot soapy water.
COOKING with MEATS:
- The sell by date is an indicator that you have 1-2 days to use or freeze poultry or ground meats, and 3-5 days for thicker cuts of meats like steaks and roasts.
- You don’t need to nor should you rinse poultry in the sink. Why? It will spread salmonella in your sink. Scrub with bleach cleaners and throw away the sponge if the chicken or turkey juices from the packaging leaks on any surface.
- Cook to proper temperatures by using a thermometer, if you have one. If you don’t have one follow the hints listed.
- Ground meats – 160*F – No red meat should be seen. Brown all the way through.
- Steaks, roast, pork – 145*F Outside should be evenly browned (not burnt) and blood should not run through when cut into. Many restaurants will not cook rare because it is not safe. When you cut into the meat, it can have slight pink color for steaks or roast. Pork is a white meat and should not have any pink when cut into.
- Chicken, turkey – 165* Cook thoroughly so there is absolutely no pink. Juices should run clear in color.
- Always put cooked meats on a clean dry plate. Don’t use the same plate the raw meat was on before you placed in cooking dish or on grill. Do not use the same utensils for prepping the meats as you do when checking for doneness or for serving.Hopefully by now, you feel ready to start cooking in your kitchen with clean healthy foods. Next up in our series: Meal Planning.