Food safety is paramount if you want to keep all your meals fresh and safe for your family. While we know the basics of keeping our meals clean and safe for consumption, it wouldn’t hurt to review the scientific basics. Time to brush up on your knowledge of food safety in today’s definitive guide on proper handling, storage, and preparation of food.
Keep everything clean and sparkling
This might not sound complicated, but you would be surprised at how many folks forget that keeping all surfaces clean is vital for general food safety. First of all, you should always wash your hands with soap and water before handling any kind of food, especially now that we are dealing with a pandemic.
You wouldn’t want to inadvertently pass on germs to your family by preparing food with dirty hands. Wet your hands, apply some antibacterial soap, and scrub your hands (including the palms, individual digits, and the back of the hand, plus the wrist) for at least 20 seconds).
Rinse your hands afterward and pat it dry with a clean paper towel. All surfaces in your kitchen should be cleaned with warm water and detergent before being soaked for ten minutes with a bleach solution.
Use pure bleach combined with a little water to disinfect commonly used surfaces. You will need to add just one tablespoon of undiluted bleach to one gallon of water to be able to clean concrete surfaces and prevent food contamination.
Watch the fridge and freezer
Foods should be separately stored and kept in the refrigerator. Do not mix seafood, beef, pork, and poultry. These should have their containers, and their juices should never touch each other. It is also vital that you clean and rinses fresh produce before you put them in the refrigerator.
This includes seafood, meat, and fresh fruits and vegetables. All products that are meant to be eaten fresh or raw should be rinsed thoroughly before preparation. Once a week, check the contents of your freezer and refrigerator and throw out anything that you will no longer be consuming. To be on the safe side, keep cooked food for a maximum of four days only. If you want to keep them longer, put them in the freezer.
Never freeze together cooked food and fresh food. There will be a massive risk for cross-contamination, and you don’t want that risk nowadays. Also, don’t forget to clean your refrigerator at least once a week physically. Apply a disinfectant solution as well, to both inner walls of the fridge and the freezer. Wipe down everything before plugging in the refrigerator again and loading it with food.
Cook like a pro – with a meat thermometer
Food safety, while cooking food, is all about attaining adequate internal temperatures before eating the food. You must use a food thermometer, especially if you like baking and roasting meats. Meat has to be held at a specific temperature before being consumed.
The minimum internal temperature for meat, poultry, and seafood is 145˚ Fahrenheit. If you are cooking veal, beef, and lamb, the minimum internal temperature is 165˚ Fahrenheit.
The same temperature holds for large birds like turkeys. The only real way that you are going to determine if the meat has attained the proper temperature is by using a chicken or cooking thermometer. There is no way to “eyeball” if the meat is already thoroughly cooked inside.
Foods held at room temperature usually need to be reheated to keep them safe for human consumption. If cooked food has lingered at a room temperature of about 90˚ Fahrenheit for about two hours, consider heating it. Cooked food can only be reheated once – after the first reheat, and there are still some leftovers, the leftovers may no longer be safe for refrigeration and subsequent reheating.
Master proper storage
The ideal temperature for your refrigerator is 40˚ Fahrenheit (any higher and the food inside your fridge is at risk of spoiling). In contrast, the temperature of the freezer needs to be at 0˚ Fahrenheit or even lower.
The lower the temperature of the freezer, the better off you will be, and you can safely freeze various types of meat. Meats should be wrapped tightly with plastic wrap to prevent juices from flowing outward and cross-contaminating other packages and items in the freezer.
No, we do not recommend just washing any contaminants; you have to prevent that from happening if you want to keep your food safe from food-borne bacteria. To further improve the storage of frozen meat, you can double the wrapping with some aluminum foil.
If you have a lot of canned food at home, take note that foods with high acidity such as pineapple chunks can only be kept unopened in a shelf for a maximum of 18 months. Low-acid, canned food items, on the other hand, can be kept for a maximum of five years with little risk to the consumer’s health. However, any cans with visible signs of damage such as dents and, of course, holes, should immediately be discarded as these pose a health risk to the consumers.
Thaw frozen foods properly
The best and safest way to thaw frozen food is by putting the frozen food in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. The total waiting time varies if you are defrosting large quantities of meat, such as a ten-pound turkey and similar preparations.
If you don’t want to wait that long, your next best option is to thaw frozen meat outside with lukewarm water. Submerge the frozen package in a small bucket and fill the bucket with lukewarm water. Refresh the water every thirty minutes and allow the water to draw away the frost for a few hours.
Once the food has been thawed out, you must cook it immediately. Do not refreeze thawed meat as this will increase ether risk of bacterial proliferation. Remember: you can’t see bacteria, so they may already be there the next time you thaw refrozen meat.