It’s not just baseball players that hope to be safe at the plate. With the holiday season upon up, even those who don’t generally take to the stove will be cookin’ up a storm for families and friends. And with that great power…comes great responsibility.
Although I can’t always guarantee that every one of my dinner guests will rave about every dish I put on the table I can guarantee that my creations are safe to eat. Now that may sound like a ‘duh’ statement, but I have been to houses where I’ve seen some food handling practices that would have deserved a violation if the word ‘restaurant’ was on their door instead of a house number.
There are 76 million foodborne illnesses that sicken Americans each year. Some of these food-related issues originate at places we cannot control — at the farm, through transportation, at restaurants, and in supermarkets. But it’s the preventable problems that I’d like to address, which begin in our own kitchens. Here are some simple storage, handling and cooking suggestions to protect those you are thankful for:
- Keep hot food hot (temperatures between 160° to 212°F destroy most bacteria). You don’t have to buy a fancy device to tell whether your food is cooked properly but don’t just rely on your eye. You’ll know your bird is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
- Keep cold food cold (40°F or below). Put a food thermometer inside your fridge all year round so you can tell that your food is being maintained at a proper temperature. It’s inexpensive and invaluable.
- Cook food thoroughly, following the food safety label found on packages. With my book, Read It Before You Eat It, you already know that I am a label nut. Most people don’t realize that many labels also contain specific cooking instructions. Turn the package over for these important tips.
- Keep raw food, like meat and poultry, separate from produce and cooked foods to prevent cross contamination, and keep work surfaces clean. The easiest way to remember this is to buy cutting boards of different colors – use the green one for veggies and the yellow one for meats and only let them touch in the dishwasher!
- Be sure to wash your hands with warm, soapy water before, during, and after handling food. Seriously – don’t pet the dog and then chop chicken. Have hand soap readily available so that this practice becomes second nature and teach your kids the importance of this everyday exercise.
Although it’s always important to take a close look at the foods you are eating, it’s essential to also pay attention to the steps taken before that food even enters your mouth. So the next time you go to a friend’s house and you notice them tying their shoe and then cutting the carrots, if you see something say something! It’s a good practice in and out of your home.