Avoid food poisoning by making the right decisions in the kitchen this season
We all know someone who is a little over-confident/naïve/reckless about their home cooking. And years of ‘doing it that way’ can still mean it’s only a matter of time before the odds catch up with us.
Whether it is tradition or just years of being blissfully ignorant, bad decisions in the kitchen before, during and after the Big Meal could send an entire family to the hospital. Or, as luck would have it, a bad case of ‘stomach flu’ might be the worst suffered. Whatever the case, that case of stomach upset / extra toilet time could be avoided with a little attention to the basics that professional food handlers must learn.
How home-cooking can kill
Home cooking might seem like a no-lose scenario. There are also lots of ways we can become our own worst enemies in the kitchen. You might know a home-cooker who is guilty of:
- using expired food
- washing/cleaning raw meat in the sink before cooking
- thawing meat in the sink or on the countertop
- letting cooked foods sit on the stove top for hours
The first, and often biggest, mistake made during the holidays: Thawing a naked bird in the sink. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends three ways to thaw your bird that will help keep your meal safe:
After the meal is over
For many people, the real fun begins AFTER the holiday meal. The bounty of food stuffs leftover can make for a few days of interesting combinations for many breakfasts, lunches and dinners!
Even leftovers require some tender-loving care, in order to make certain your favorite poultry, stuffing or gravy doesn’t deliver a knock-out punch to your gut.
What the experts say about leftover food safety
First, make certain your refrigerator is set for 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This will keep the chill on and make certain microorganisms are kept at bay.
Try to avoid letting leftovers sit on the counter or stove-top forever, after the meal has been served. Every hour your food sits out gives bacteria another hour to take hold. And, the growth of bacteria is cumulative. This means an hour here, an hour there on the counter over the course of the weekend can add up to big problems. Your goal should be to put food away within two hours.
There’s no need to let food “cool off” before refrigerating. Put the food in shallow dishes, so the coolness of the ‘fridge can penetrate faster.
Empty stuffing out of the bird before storing.
When reheating leftovers, use a meat themometer to make sure the internal temperature gets to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring leftover gravy to a boil.
Four days is the maximum safe zone for keeping leftovers. Freeze any food you plan to keep around longer, to extend the food safety window.
Here are some ideas for ways to grind through your leftovers a little faster, with tasty results:
A note on food storage containers
Keeping your kitchen from killing you goes beyond issues like food preparation! A recent study has found the plastics we use to store and reheat our food can introduce toxic chemicals that add up over time. These chemicals have links to serious health issues such as insulin resistance and high blood pressure. The chemicals can contaminate your food while in the refrigerator; nuking the food while in a plastic container elevates the level of contamination.
Check out the links below and get more knowledge that will dispel some common beliefs and myths about home-cooking. Discover some things to look out for when handling food at home.
Also published on Medium.