Kitchen Best Practices for Food Safety: Are You Doing These in YOUR Kitchen?
When it comes to “best practices,” it seems we’re always hearing about them for businesses and people in the corporate world.
But, guess what?
As it relates to your kitchen and food safety, best practices are also a thing!
And our aim at Stop Foodborne Illness is to help you amp up your food safety game by incorporating some SIMPLE but potentially LIFE-SAVING behaviors into your everyday routine at home—it’s a list we’re calling our “home kitchen best practices.” By following these important food safety behaviors listed below, you’ll make a significant difference in warding off sickness from foodborne illness.
KITCHEN BEST PRACTICE #1: WASH YOUR HANDS THE RIGHT WAY
When you wash your hands, it’s important to always use warm, soapy water. Why warm water? With soap, it’s most effective at penetrating dirt and oils on your skin. Here’s a step-by-step hand washing procedure to follow:
STEP 1: WET your hands with clean, warm water.
STEP 2: SOAP up your hands.
STEP 3: RUB your hands vigorously for 20 seconds. Be sure to wash all surfaces including palms/fingers, back of hands, wrists, between fingers/thumbs, and under/around fingernails.
STEP 4: RINSE thoroughly, rubbing all surfaces to remove all soap.
STEP 5: DRY your hands rubbing vigorously with paper towel or clean cloth towel.
KITCHEN BEST PRACTICE #2: SAFELY DEFROST FOODS
When defrosting foods, there are three safe ways to do it:
- In the refrigerator
- In the microwave
- In cold water
If you’re in the habit of thawing food on your kitchen counter, please kick that habit to the curb! It’s dangerous because germs can multiply extremely rapidly in food when left at room temperatures (the “Danger Zone” is between 40°F and 140°F).
Learn more about safe defrosting methods here.
KITCHEN BEST PRACTICE #3: USE A FOOD THERMOMETER
For meats, poultry, and other cooked foods, ALWAYS use a food thermometer to ensure they’re cooked to safe minimum internal cooking temperatures.
Here’s a quick list of safe internal temps for various meat dishes:
- Turkey + Poultry (including ground): 165°F
- Ground Meats (except poultry): 160°F
- Whole Cuts of Meat (including pork): 145°F
- Seafood: 145°F
- Leftovers: 165°F
For breads, cookies, tortillas, pizza, biscuits, pastries, and pancakes, follow the recipe or package directions for proper cooking/baking time and temperature.
For crafts such as ornaments and play dough, remember that flour is a raw agricultural product and hasn’t been treated to kill germs like E. coli. Do not let children play with or eat raw dough or batter. The bacteria are killed when the dough or batter is cooked.
Remember, contaminated food CANNOT be effectively detected by smell, color, or taste of your food. A food thermometer is a critical tool that’ll help make certain potentially dangerous bacteria in your food have been destroyed. Between readings, be sure to wash your food thermometer.
KITCHEN BEST PRACTICE #4: DON’T EAT STALE FOODS
Eating perishable foods that have been left out at room temperature too long is a big food safety no-no. How long is too long? TWO HOURS or more. At the two-hour mark, the warmer temperature creates a dangerous breeding ground for harmful bacteria to grow in the food—so that’s when you need to be diligent about putting those foods in the fridge or freezer (or simply tossing them out). Now, if the temperature is 90°F or more and your food has been sitting out, ONE hour is the limit.
KITCHEN BEST PRACTICE #5: WASH PRODUCE PROPERLY
Knowing when and how to wash produce properly is an important best practice that will help you prevent foodborne illness. Here are a few rules to follow:
- Produce that’s pre-packaged or doesn’t indicate it’s been pre-washed should be washed before eating.
- Only wash produce right before you eat it since, once it’s wet, the surfaces become a moist environment where bacteria thrive.
- Wash your produce in a colander (not right in the sink) to help reduce the risk of cross-contamination from the sink’s surface.
- When washing produce, simply rinse it thoroughly with running water; do NOT use soap, detergent, or commercial produce wash as it’s specifically not recommended by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
- For pre-packaged produce that’s tightly sealed with a label that indicates it was pre-washed/ready-to-eat, there’s no need to wash it.
KITCHEN BEST PRACTICE #6: USE MICROWAVES WITH CAUTION
When heating your food with a microwave, be careful because microwaves tend to cook food unevenly—particularly foods that are thick or uneven in their shape such as meat, poultry, fish, and egg dishes. And that oftentimes leaves “cold spots” where bacteria can survive.
So, it’s vital to use a food thermometer to test microwaved food in several places to be sure it has reached the recommended safe temperature to destroy pathogens that could cause foodborne illness. While microwaving food, it’s best to rotate and stir food often as it cooks and be sure to follow package directions if applicable.
KITCHEN BEST PRACTICE #7: TOSS LEFTOVERS PROMPTLY
Leftovers can only be kept in the refrigerator for a maximum of four days. After four days, you’ll need to throw those leftovers out or freeze them. If you know you’re not going to eat perishable foods within four days after you’ve made them, it’s best to freeze those foods right away to preserve them safely for a longer time.
Thanks in advance for helping us spread the food safety word!