If you’re anything like me, you will love pottering around in the kitchen. There is nothing quite as exciting as experimenting with different kinds of ingredients and coming up with unique recipes.
There is no wonder that some of us can easily while away a whole day in our kitchen! But because you may spend so long in this part of your house, you need to ensure that you are staying safe while you are working in there. There are many common hazards that can affect us when we are busy in the kitchen - and most of these are to do with the food and ingredients that we use!
To ensure you and your cooking stay safe and healthy, here are some delicious tips to stay safe while working in the kitchen.
Store Meat Correctly
Did you know that if you store your meat incorrectly, you will be greatly increasing the risk of certain diseases such as food poisoning and salmonella? It is incredibly important that you store your raw and cooked meat completely separately. Not doing so will greatly increase the chance of the bacteria that cause these diseases thriving in your fridge and kitchen. Want to know how you should be storing your meat? It’s simple, really. First of all, make sure that you keep your cooked meat above any raw meat in your fridge. If you swap them the other way around, the juices from the raw meat could drip onto the cooked meat and cause a contamination. It is also a good idea to store all your meat, whether cooked or uncooked, covered, either wrapped in clingfilm or in Tupperware tubs.
Listen Out For Food Recalls
There are some occasions which food suppliers and supermarkets need to recall certain food items. This is normally because a specific batch has somehow become contaminated in production, which was only discovered once the products had left the manufacturers or the factory in which they were packaged. Customers are requested to return the recalled item from wherever they bought it in order to get a full refund. You are not obliged to do so, but it will be in you and your family’s best interest as, sometimes, products are recalled for health and safety reasons. You can find out more about recall information on specialist websites.
Understand Use-By Dates
Every item of food and ingredient that you buy will have a use-by date on the packaging. That is because no food lasts forever, and there will come a point when the item in question will be no good to cook with or eat. Sometimes, these dates can be very confusing, as they can be labeled under different names. For instance, you might see dates labeled as ‘best before date’ or ‘display until’. These labels all basically mean the same things, except the ‘display until’ dates. These are dates that are aimed at supermarkets, and tell them how long they can display an item for. But it is necessary that you take notice of the ‘best before’ and ‘use-by’ dates. You should also use your best judgement when thinking whether a food is still good to eat. For example, even if a food smells slightly off but is still inside its use-by date, you should still throw it out.
Freezing And Defrosting Food
There are lots of foods that can be frozen to ensure they last for longer. However, it is important that you correctly freeze your food to make sure you aren’t encouraging bacteria to develop during the freezing process. Don’t forget that it is safe to free anything as long as it hasn’t come up to its use-by date. So don’t feel like you have to freeze anything on the day on which you buy it. If it still has a week before it becomes out of date, you still have a few days to think about whether or not you want to freeze it. How you defrost is also important.
If you are defrosting meat or fish, you should, ideally, give it plenty of time to defrost slowly at room temperature. Don’t forget that a lot of liquid could come out of the meat or fish, so you should place it in a bowl or on a plate. You can defrost meat and fish in a microwave but only do this if you are going to cook it straight away. Ensure that the defrosted meat or fish is piping all the way through before serving. Once raw meat or fish has thawed, you should not freeze it again. However, if you cook the meat or fish after defrosting, it is safe to freeze the cooked items.
Many people tend to throw out their leftovers because they are worried about storing them and getting food poisoning. But you shouldn’t worry about this as there are many safe ways to store your uneaten food. If the leftovers are still hot from cooking, you should try and cool them down within two hours. You can then divide the leftovers up into portions so that they can be refrigerated or frozen. If you choose to keep your leftovers in the fridge, you should eat them within two days. You can reheat refrigerated and defrosted leftovers, but make sure that the food reaches 70 degrees centigrade for at least two minutes. Once some leftovers have been thawed, they should not be frozen again.
One reason why people have trouble storing fresh ingredients is that their fridge isn’t correctly maintained. You should be checking to make sure that it is always chilling food at temperatures under 5 degrees centigrade. This will ensure that each item of food in there will stay fresh until its use-by date. You should also regularly clean your fridge. Food debris and grease can quickly build up in fridges, which can become the perfect breeding ground for dangerous bacteria. Ideally, make sure you give your fridge a good clean and scrub out every couple of weeks. If you ever spill anything in your fridge, you should clean it up straight away so that it does not contaminate any of the other foods.
Temperatures Are Important
You will have no doubt noticed that I have written quite a bit about temperatures in this blog post already. But it is very important to reiterate this point, as storing foods at the incorrect temperatures can cause some dangerous bacteria to develop on them, which increases your risk of food poisoning. Firstly, you should always remember that room temperature is dangerous for all foods (except those that are defrosting). You should never leave any fresh food out at room temperature for long periods, as this is the optimum temperature for breeding bacteria. Only leave things out for two hours, or one hour if the weather is particularly hot. When you are cooking food, especially meat, it is important that it hits high temperatures and stays at them for at least two minutes of the total cooking time. If you aren’t too sure whether your food is hot enough to serve, use a cooking thermometer.
Food Safety While Out Shopping
Of course, food safety doesn’t just start in the kitchen. You should also be wary of cross contamination when you are doing your weekly shop in your local supermarket. When you are packing your shopping cart, it is essential that you keep your raw meat and eggs separate from any cooked products that you buy. In fact, one good tip is to pick up your raw meats just before you go to the checkout to pay. This will reduce the chance of cross contamination from occurring. If you are planning on buying any chilled or frozen foods, keep a freezer bag and ice packs in your car trunk. This will ensure you can transport them home without them getting too warm and starting to defrost.
Check Your Groceries
There are also some simple checks you should carry out to ensure that the groceries that you pick up in a supermarket are of the highest quality. For example, it is important to open a carton of eggs to ensure that none of them are broken or cracked. Make sure that the shells are also clean. When you are looking at raw fish and meat products, you shouldn’t choose something that is warm to the touch. All raw products need to be adequately refrigerated to ensure complete freshness. When you are looking at canned and packaged foods, make sure you always check the use-by date. Otherwise, you may get home and find that you only have a couple of days in which to use the product before it ends up out of date! Fresh fruit and vegetables should not show any signs of rotting or mould. But don’t confuse this with an ugly product - just because a piece of fruit or veg is quite ugly, doesn't mean it is dangerous to eat!
Hopefully, you can now enjoy your cooking time without worrying about making anyone ill!
Life as a grandma.. it's no 'quiet, restful days in the rocking-chair'. It's filled with activity, excitement and lots of family fun. Please share it with me.