STEP 1: Clean
The kitchen tends to be a very busy place, so it is important to keep it sanitary. Keep the illness-causing germs away by keeping your food preparation area around your kitchen, including your food, hands, utensils, and cutting boards, clean. The kitchen is one of the most important rooms to keep clean consistently, and if you follow the following steps, you will keep the germs away.
When cleaning hands, use plain soap and water and scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails for at least 20 seconds. Then, rinse hands and dry with a clean towel.
The US Department of Health has some great tips on when to wash our hands:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- After handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, or their juices, or uncooked eggs
- Before eating
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- After touching garbage
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- Wash surfaces and utensils after each use
- Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water especially after they’ve held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs.
To maintain our hands’ cleanliness, please be sure to wash the dishcloths and hand towels often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
Sanitize the kitchen sink before, during, and after preparing food.
Before eating fruits and vegetables, cut away any damaged or bruised areas and then wash them under running water.
Some people ask about whether we need to wash eggs, meat, or poultry. The USDA explained with today’s modern food safety system, eggs, meat, and poultry are cleaned during processing, so further washing is unnecessary. Please refer to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website for more information.
STEP 2: Separate
When preparing food, it is important to separate certain foods and utensils away from each other. By not doing so can damage the food. Such a seemingly minor step is actually a major step, so please follow these rules of separation when in the kitchen:
Use separate cutting boards and plates for produce, meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. For fresh produce or other foods that won’t be cooked, cut them on one cutting board. Use a separate cutting board for raw meat, poultry, or seafood. Be sure to replace them when they are worn.
Use separate plates and utensils for cooked and raw foods. Be sure to wash thoroughly all plates, utensils, and cutting boards that touched raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs with hot and soapy water before using them again.
When shopping for groceries, place raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs in a separate bag from other foods. Be sure that your reusable grocery bag is clean when stowing away for the next use. If you’re not planning to use the raw meat, poultry, and seafood within a few days, place them in containers or sealed plastics and then store them in the freezer. Otherwise, store the raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs in the refrigerator’s main compartment and not in the door.
STEP 3: Cook to the Right Temperature
Food, just like many other things, can be filled with bacteria. Food is safely cooked when the internal temperature is high enough to kill germs that can make you sick. This is especially risky during the flu season and the ongoing pandemic, as many people are already ill. However, by cooking at the right temperature, you can enjoy a well-cooked meal while maintaining good health. Please follow these steps below:
By using a food thermometer, you can measure food temperature after it is cooked. You would stick this in the thickest part of the food avoiding bone, fat, or gristles. To learn more, please click here.
Maintain the Heat:
Keep food hot (140˚F or above) after cooking. If you’re not serving food right after cooking, please remember to use a heat source. Examples of this are chafing dishes, warming trays, or a slow cooker.
Importance of Microwave Use:
Microwave food thoroughly (165˚F or above). These food items always have thorough instructions so, please read package directions for cooking. For example, if the instructions read, “Let stand for [number] minutes after cooking,” follow the directions. Letting microwaved food sit for a few minutes enables colder areas to absorb heat from the food’s hotter areas.
Stir food in the middle of heating. Follow package directions for commercially prepared frozen food; some are not designed to be stirred while heating.
General Guidance on Food and Temperature:
Please refer to the FDA Minimum Cooking Temperatures Chart below to ensure your foods have reached a safe temperature if you seek additional guidance.
STEP 4: Chill Foods Promptly
Just as cooking food at the right temperature is essential in ridding illness-causing bacteria in foods, chilling foods is also important in preventing bacterial growth. By not doing so, you are potentially bringing that bacteria to your body, which is the last thing you or anyone would want to consume. So please remember that when it comes to bacteria, chill to kill. Please follow the steps below:
Thermometer Use for Chilling Temperatures:
When using an appliance thermometer, be sure the temperature is consistently at 40° F or below and the freezer temperature is 0° F or below.
Importance of Refrigeration:
Refrigerate or freeze meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, and other perishables within 2 hours of cooking or purchasing. Refrigerate within 1 hour if the temperature outside is above 90° F.
Where to Thaw/Marinate:
When it comes to thawing your food, the refrigerator, the microwave, and in cold water are the ONLY places to thaw your food safely. Food thawed in cold water or the microwave should be cooked immediately, and food that needs to be marinated should always be in the refrigerator.
Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.
Source: Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA). 4 Steps to Food Safety. FoodSafety.gov. https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep-food-safe/4-steps-to-food-safety. Published November 21, 2019. Accessed November 1, 2020.