Food safety is one of those topics that are not really exciting – but nevertheless are important.
In fact, I get a lot of questions about it. We were taught extensively about food safety in culinary school, but I did have to brush up to remind me. As I said, it’s not the most exciting topic and I may or may not have dozed off when the instructor was talking about “Shigellosis” or something 😂
There is a lot to know and personally I think that it can easily go from being just information to information overload and then fear kicks in. That’s not what you want! Remember some key basics of what you can prevent and don’t stress about what you can’t control.
I have to preface this by saying that while food safety is a topic covered in culinary school and practiced in the “real world” as in – professional kitchens; my expertise is in teaching you about the skills behind the recipes, not in food safety. My goal is to take a very in-depth and heavy topic and break it down in an easy to understand way.
Transporting – Transporting food from the store to your home should be done quickly. Don’t stop at starbucks AND chat on your phone for a bit while your food just sits in the trunk. I’m only about 15 minutes away from my supermarket, but I still like to bring
for my meats, poultry, fish, etc. It helps to insulate and keep the food cold for longer.
Storage – This one may seem obvious, but you want to check that your food is stored at the proper recommended temperatures. (Below 40 degrees F for fridge, and below 0 degrees F for freezer) because in between these temperatures are where microorganisms grow. Careful to store any raw foods on the lowest shelf with a bowl or plate underneath to catch any drips that could cause cross contamination.
Preparation – While you are preparing your food, ensure that it minimizes the time spent in what’s called the “temperature danger zone” 41 degree F to 140 degrees F. It’s also during this stage that you have to make sure you’re paying attention to cross-contamination.
- Wash your hands often (or use like I do since I have sensitive skin) especially after touching raw foods and before touching ready to eat foods or other surfaces. This also includes things relating to personal hygiene. Please don’t pick your nose and then serve your family a crudite platter!
- If you’re sick, have someone else cook or order out! If you have any open wounds,make sure to cover them while prepping food.
- Prevent any drips from raw food onto ready to eat foods
- Don’t wash raw chicken. There is more risk to transfer bacteria to other parts of your kitchen. I know there is some controversy here. I learned more about that when
but I understand that for many this is a cultural thing and totally get that it is important to you!
- Clean and santize any tools that you used. Cleaning means removing visible dirt but sanitizing is an effort to reduce pathogens which you may not be able to see. You have to clean FIRST and then sanitize. The USDA recommends a solution a water (1 gallon) and (1 Tablespoon) bleach for items that can’t go in the dishwasher. Then air dry or pat dry.
- Your sponge is probably the most dirty part of the kitchen. it has been found that microwaving for 1 minute killed 99.99999 percent of bacteria on it. If you don’t have one, you can use the dishwasher which kills 99.9998 – ultimately though, you should be replacing it at least once a week. Better yet,
- Personally, I don’t use bleach. I prefer
instead. (you can also use any spray top with a hydrogen peroxide bottle) This is your call and where you feel comfortable.
- Raw meat is easiest to cut on a cutting board that can be cleaned and sanitized in the dishwasher.
Cooking – Make sure food is cooked to the
Holding – When holding foods, you should also consider the temperature danger zone. Keep hot foods at 140 F or higher and cold foods at 41F or lower
Cooling – Cool cooked foods to 70 F within 2 hours and from 70F to 41F or below in an additional four hours. This is going to require you to move things into smaller containers and to spread things out to increase the surface area. A big pot of hot rice could be spread out on a sheet tray for example.
This is another reason I like because they are fast and accurate.
Reheating – Reheat foods to an internal temperature of 165F. Liquids to a rolling boil
Any food can become contaminated but the way you get sick is usually through foods where microorganisms can grow quickly. These foods have: a history of being involved in a foodborne illness outbreak, a potential for contamination by the methods used to produce and prep them, moisture, high in protein and a neutral or slightly acidic pH. Here are the foods to keep in mind.
Potentially Hazardous Foods:
– Soy protein foods
– Meat (beef, pork, lamb)
– Shellfish and crustraceans
– Shell eggs
– Milk & milk products
– Garlic and oil mixtures
– Baked or boiled potatoes
– Sprouts and raw seeds
– Sliced melons
– Cooked rice, beans ( or other heat treated plant foods)
FATTOM – What microorganisms need to grow
F – Food. Nutrients (proteins and carbs)
A – Acidity. This one is confusing because they usually don’t grow with higher pH (7.0) but just remember that 🙂
T – Temperature. Most foodborne microorganisms grow in the temperature danger zone (41 – 140 F) Keep in mind that there are some that may just be slowed down and bacterial spores can even survive in extreme heat and cold. This is what I meant by doing what you can!
T – Time. They need time to grow. They can double their population every 20 minutes. That’s really fast. Remember not to keep things out longer than 2 hours in that zone
O – Oxygen. Most microorganisms that can get you sick can survive with or without oxygen
M – Moisture. They grow well in moist foods
Okaaaaaayyyyyy! If you made it this far, bless you. It is not a fun topic but hey I only create content from topics that I have been asked about and clearly home cooks want to know! I hope you learned something but are not overwhelmed. If I left anything out, let me know!