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Important Things to Remember Before Cooking at Home

As a nurse, I am always concerned about the health and safety of my family. When I clean my home, I use cleaners that contain non-toxic chemicals and that are safe for the environment. When I cook at home, reducing bacteria and proper handling of food are my main concerns.

Here are some important safety tips to keep in mind the next time you decide to prepare a meal at home:

First things first: Wash your hands. Washing your hands before you prepare food is one of the most important things you can do to reduce bacteria on your hands and on the food. Before preparing food, wash your hands in warm soapy water for about twenty seconds. If working with raw meat and then with fresh foods, be sure to wash them during cook and prep time frequently. Avoid touching your face, skin, and hair while cooking to reduce the transfer of germs and bacteria.

When it comes to the refrigerator, the best temperature of the fridge should be forty degrees Farenheit. This is considered the safe temperature because the colder air slows the growth of bacteria.

An organized fridge plays a big role when it comes to storing food in the fridge safely. Raw meats, seafood, and poultry should be sealed tightly and placed on the bottom shelf so that none of the juices run out. Store eggs in the carton on the refrigerator shelves instead of storing them on the door. If you are transferring food from a reusable tote to the fridge, wipe down the tote thoroughly.

The best way to defrost food is overnight in the refrigerator, microwave, or under cold water. Never leave meats or other items on the counter to defrost. The result is the inner part of the food item is still frozen while the outer areas enter the food “bacteria rowing zone,” which is 40 degrees Farenheit to 140 degrees Farenheit.

Just like your hands, cutting boards and utensils can transfer bacteria and food-borne illnesses from one food to another. Try color coding your cutting boards, such as using a green cutting board for vegetables, a red cutting board for meat, a blue cutting board for fish, and a yellow one for poultry. Make sure you wash the knives and all other cooking tools after using.

Invest in a kitchen thermometer that can be used to measure the temperature of foods internally when cooking. According to the USDA, all fish, lamb, veal, and beef should be 145 degrees. Pork and ground meats should be about 160 degrees. Poultry should be at 165 degrees.

When reheating food, like leftovers, be sure that they reach a temperature of 165 degrees before serving. Cooking foods at their proper temperatures helps to kill any potentially dangerous bacteria that may be waiting to come out!

Food left out on the counter should be monitored. Never leave meat, poultry, eggs, or sliced fruits and vegetables out on the counter for more than two hours, or if the temperature is hotter than 90 degrees. Leaving perishable foods out of the refrigerator or freezer for more than these times can increase the growth of bacteria which can lead to foodborne illnesses.

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