By the Fix-it Team
Whether you’re cooking food for the holidays or just preparing a weeknight dinner, it’s important to prep your food carefully. We don’t want anyone getting a stomach ache (or worse) because of poor food-handling habits.
To make sure your family and/or dinner guests stay happy and healthy, here are four easy steps for safe food prep.
1. Wash Your Hands
Wash your hands before you start making dinner, do it between steps, and do it after you’re finished. There’s no harm to keeping your hands clean throughout the process. It’s especially important if you are touching raw meat, eggs, unwashed vegetables or any food packaging.
Food isn’t the only thing that can cause contamination either. If you scratch an itch or rub your hair, make sure to wash again to keep everything as sanitary as possible.
2. Keep Food Separated (Before and During Prep)
Avoid cross-contamination. Don’t store your meat or seafood next to your veggies in the fridge, and don’t have them all using the same cutting board either. Keeping them separate as long as possible will prevent any possible mishaps.
It can be helpful to have different cutting boards for meat and vegetables to make sure there is never cross-contamination between the two food categories.
3. Thaw your Meat Safely
This applies to all perishables, but especially meat. Many people will just leave meat on the counter to thaw, but bacteria thrive in these conditions due to the outside thawing quicker than the inside, and there is an increased chance of us becoming sick because of it.
You should only thaw food in:
Using the fridge to dethaw food does take some planning but it is your best bet. For example, to thaw a turkey in the fridge it will need at least one day for each five pounds of turkey.
Cold water thawing is faster but takes more work. Your food will need to be kept in a leak-proof package to avoid outside contamination and you’ll need to change the water every 30 minutes. A turkey should take about 30 minutes per lbs with this method.
Microwave thawing is the fastest method but you’ll need to cool whatever you thaw right away so the bacteria don’t have time to grow. Thawing a turkey in the microwave will be tough though due to its size.
4. Cook Food Thoroughly
Serving undercooked meat to your guests can be dangerous. You can’t just judge based on how the food looks on the outside. Make sure you’ve got your cooking time straight and use a meat thermometer to test internal temperatures for all your dishes. A turkey, for example, must reach a temperature of at least 165°F to be safe for eating.
So there you go! Follow these four food prep steps every time you cook a meal, and you, your family and guests will be left feeling happy and healthy, if a little full. Happy cooking!
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