5 Food Safety Facts All Home Cooks Should Know
Even if you do not aspire to cook in a restaurant one day, all cooks need to know some basic safety rules in order to keep themselves and their food safe. Below are 5 food safety tips for all home cooks whether you keep a plant-based kitchen or an omnivore-based kitchen.
1. Properly wash your hands.
It sounds obvious, right? Most of us may wash our hands frequently enough, but perhaps not for enough time and not thoroughly enough, either. Here are some hand washing tips: Using warm, running water, wash with soap and water all the way up to your forearms. Wash all parts of your hands and don’t forget to scrub in between your fingers and under your nails, too. Scrub your hands for 20 seconds, which is as long as it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song. Always dry your hands with a new paper towel or a kitchen towel you change daily.
2. Always wash the outside of fruits and vegetables, even the ones you peel.
Many of us know to disinfect surfaces and tools after working with raw meats but did you know you should do this with unwashed vegetables too? Vegetables and fruits can also harbor bacteria, viruses and toxins on their skin and peels. So, before you use them, wash them well.
Always wash your citrus before peeling or zesting it it to avoid the possibility of transferring these microscopic bad guys to your food. No need for a fancy produce wash, just use running water and/or a vegetable brush.
3. Never let frozen food thaw on the counter.
Food should always be kept out of the “Temperature Danger Zone” (between 41°and 140°) where bacteria and viruses can multiply quickly. Thawing frozen food can be tricky because if the food thaws at different rates, some parts can be at a temperature that isn’t safe. Always thaw frozen food either in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, in a bath of cool water while still sealed in the package, or in the microwave using plastic wrap. Be sure to stir the microwaved food well to get rid of any hot spots. Use thawed food immediately.
4. Leftover cooked rice needs to be refrigerated right away.
After you cook rice, as it cools and reaches 140° and below, it can begin to grow bacteria. To safely cool rice, spread it out into an even layer onto a clean baking sheet or plate and put it into the fridge uncovered for 30 minutes to an hour. Then cover it or put it in to an airtight bag or container and store for up to 4 days. As a general rule, it is a good idea to store all leftovers within an hour.
5. Organize your fridge safely.
Foods that need to be kept the coldest such as raw meats, eggs and milk should go on the lowest shelf, which is the coldest part of your refrigerator. Never store eggs and milk in the refrigerator door-the temperature is not cold enough to keep these items safe for consumption. Eggs should stay inside their packaging. Packaged, raw meats should be placed on a plate before storing them in the fridge as an extra precaution. Cooked foods should go onto the top shelf while raw foods should always stay on the bottom shelf to ensure that no cross contamination can happen.
Happy Safe Cooking!