Foodborne illness is serious. If the food you eat is not handled properly, your risk for getting food poisoning increases, and let's be honest: no one wants food poisoning. NO ONE.
Although we don't have full control over how our food is handled before it reaches our kitchens, we can take some precautions to minimize and prevent harmful bacteria, like Salmonella, E. Coli, Listeria and Campylobacter, from taking over the healthy meals we prepare each week.
Today we're going to be covering five basic (but super serious) food safety mistakes you might be making in your kitchen, and teaching you how to avoid making them.
1. You don't cook your meat long enough.
Solution: Use a meat thermometer.
The best way to ensure your meat and seafood is cooked all the way through is to use a meat thermometer. Digital thermometers are inexpensive to buy and can quickly tell you the internal temperature of your meat. Yep, that means no more cutting into the middle of a chicken breast to see if it’s still pink!
Always check the temperature of your meats and seafood in the center, at the thickest part of the cut. To keep the temperature accurate, ensure the thermometer doesn't touch the bone. If you are cooking multiple pieces of meat, be sure to check the internal temperature of each piece separately.
2. You let your cooked food sit at room temperature for too long.
Solution: Use The Two-Hour Rule
Once cooked, food should only sit at room temperature for a maximum of two hours before it is transferred to the fridge. If left any longer, dangerous bacteria can start to grow and quickly contaminate your food.
3. You don't wash your fruits and vegetables.
Solution: Wash your fruits and vegetables!
You should be washing all of your fruits and vegetables, even if they are organic! Fresh fruits and vegetables are the cause of 46% of food poisoning cases and leafy green vegetables may account for more foodborne illnesses than any other food.
Expensive fruit and veggie cleaners aren't necessary as a simple wash with water can remove dirt, bacteria and even different pesticides from your produce. Gently rub fruits and veggies under running cold water. Don’t use soaps, detergent or other cleaning products as these can leave their own residue and may even change the flavor.
If pesticide residues are of concern to you and your family, a recent study has shown that soaking produce in a baking soda solution is the most effective way to remove pesticide residues.
4. You thaw meats and frozen foods on the counter.
Solution: Thaw your meats and frozen foods in the refrigerator.
Um, hello. We see you leaving that package of frozen chicken on the counter for several hours. Stop that!
The safest way to thaw frozen foods is on a plate in the refrigerator on the bottom shelf to prevent contamination of other items. Avoid thawing meats and frozen foods at room temperature. Once thawed, it is best to cook the food immediately.
Now let's face it – we don't always have 24 hours to thaw our food, right? In this case, you can safely defrost your food faster in the microwave or in a cold water bath.
You can also safely cook your foods from frozen. Just remember that it will take 50% longer than if you were cooking the food from a thawed state. Time to get out that digital thermometer!
5. You rinse your meat with water before cooking it.
Solution: Do not rinse your meat.
Rinsing chicken and other meats before cooking is not recommended. This is because bacteria on the surface of raw meats can be easily be spread around the kitchen through water splashes, which increases the risk of contaminating other foods you're preparing.
Instead of washing your meat, simply transfer it straight from the package to the pan to reduce the spread of bacteria. Cooking your poultry and meat to a safe internal temperature will kill off any bacteria that may be present on the surface of the meat.