Success in the kitchen is based on many different things; a fail proof recipe, fresh ingredients and most importantly, a clean and safe working environment. Based on recommendations by Health Canada, these simple food safety tips are easy to remember and execute and can help to prevent the spread of foodborne bacteria while safeguarding against food poisoning and disappointing recipe results.
Keep it clean
While keeping a clean kitchen may seem like an obvious tip, it’s one of the most important components of food safety. There’s a tendency for these rules to be overlooked when you’re in a hurry, but it’s worth reminding yourself it’s the most effective way to easily eliminate bacteria. Begin with clean hands that have been washed in hot soapy water for at least 20 seconds, this step is crucial both before and after handling seafood. Use a solution of 5 ml of bleach to 750 ml of water to sanitize cutting boards, countertop and utensils before and after use, allowing everything to air-dry in order to prevent spreading bacteria through the use of a tea towel. If possible, use two cutting boards, reserving one for the use of raw poultry, red meat, and fish and the other for produce and bread products. Avoid using sponges when cleaning, they’re full of bacteria and even using tricks such as microwaving the sponge fails to kill bacterial growth. Stick to paper towels or dish cloths for cleaning, making sure to launder them after every use.
Defrost like a pro
As an extension of your pantry the freezer is the perfect place to store poultry, fish, and red meat (as well as all the fruits of your batch-cooking labour). Having a freezer full of lean proteins and other convenience foods is great for meal-planning and buying ingredients in bulk, but it also means the rules for smart defrosting methods need to be closely followed. As tempting as it may be to cut corners by defrosting food on the counter or in warm water, save yourself from potential food poisoning by defrosting frozen ingredients in the fridge, in the microwave or in cold water (as long as it’s in a sealed bag or container).
Pay attention to temperature
Keeping food at the correct temperature is an important part of avoiding foodborne illnesses. Make sure your refrigerator and freezer are set to the right temperatures; 4°Celsius (or lower, but be careful not to cool below freezing to prevent food spoilage) for your fridge and -18°Celsius (or lower) for your freezer. Use a heat-proof oven thermometer when baking or roasting to ensure you’re cooking at the right temperature (especially with older ovens that might have cold or hot spots) in order to prevent accidentally overdone or partially raw food at the dinner table.
Prep produce for successful storage and usage
Always wash fruits and vegetables in cool water before preparing them, even if you’re planning on removing the peel, to remove the presence of surface bacteria. Use a stiff, clean brush to clean the outsides of thick-skinned produce such as melons, carrots, potatoes, yams, and oranges. If you notice any black spots, blemishes or mould on produce cut away the area with a clean paring knife in order to prevent the spoilage from spreading. Salad greens that have been pre-washed and sealed in a bag don’t have to be re-washed, although that can be a great way to perk up limp greens if they appear lacklustre. Loose salad greens, spinach, and bean sprouts should always be washed before use, drying in a salad spinner or on a paper towel or clean tea towel.
Safely handle and store raw poultry, red meat and fish
Raw poultry, red meat, and fish should be kept covered in the bottom of your fridge in order to prevent contamination from dripping juices. When grocery shopping, pick out your dairy, red meat, poultry, and fish last so they stay chilled as long as possible and make sure you keep these items in a separate bag. Speaking of bags, wash your reusable bags regularly to keep them clean and (relatively) free from bacteria.