Nothing brings us greater joy than cooking for the people we love. But nothing gives us greater fear than feeding someone a meal that makes them sick. Do you share this fear? It’s reasonable to be very cautious about serving safe food.
But sometimes that fear can hold us back in the kitchen — worrying unduly, or throwing out perfectly good food. After polling friends, it became clear that our insecurities and anxieties about raw meats, spoiling leftovers, and marinated fish all originate from a lack of information. So today let’s tackle this fear with the greatest weapon we have: knowledge!
Over time, food recalls and E. coli scares caused most of us to develop a bit of paranoia around the food we buy, the food we save, and the food we serve. And oftentimes we become super-cautious when ingredients seem questionable, no matter what the expiration date says or how expensive it was to buy.
Pay special attention to food handling and preparation, especially during the hot summer months. Most at risk from food-borne illnesses are the elderly, people with weakened immune systems from cancer and other medical disorders, pregnant women, and children. These tips from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration can reduce your exposure to food borne diseases:
Keep Clean. Frequently wash hands and all surfaces that touch food. Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen cutting boards, knives, countertops, sponges, and brushes.
Separate foods. Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from fresh vegetables and other foods that are ready to eat.
Cook food thoroughly. Food is properly cooked when it is brought to the required internal temperature long enough to kill harmful bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses. Use a food thermometer to measure internal temperature of foods.
Chill properly. Refrigerate foods promptly to stop harmful bacteria from multiplying. Refrigerators should be set at 37 degrees Fahrenheit or 2.777 degrees Celsius, freezes at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or -17.777 degrees Celsius. Occasionally check settings with a thermometer.
Tips for Food Safety While Shopping
Food safety starts at the store. And while you cannot completely control how your food was raised, handled, and packaged, stick to these best practices to ensure fresh, quality ingredients.
1. Don’t cross-contaminate in the cart: Do not cross-contaminate in the cart. Keep raw proteins and eggs separate from everything else.
2. Pick up perishables right before check-out. Next, to keep frozen foods and perishable items (like dairy, eggs, and meat) as cool as possible, grab them right before you check out.
3. Use a cooler bag and ice pack: Stash a cooler bag (or a cooler-shopping bag!) in your car to keep ingredients at a safe temperature during the transport home. Double pro tip: Pack an ice pack or ask for ice from the meat and fish counter when you have another errand to run.