1. Start with a Clean Kitchen: According to a swab analysis by NSF International, the kitchen sponge and kitchen sink were the germiest places in the home – items that are typically used in multiple stages of the cooking and cleaning process. Avoid cross-contamination by ensuring these items are clean by:
a. Placing wet sponges in the microwave for two minutes once per day and replacing them often – every two weeks or more as needed. A better option for kitchen cleaning is dishcloths, towels and rags. These items can be sanitized by washing on the clothes washer’s hot water cycle with bleach. Replace every 1-2 days.
b. Washing and disinfecting the sides and bottom of the sink 1-2 times per week with a disinfecting cleaner. Sanitize kitchen drains and disposals monthly by pouring a solution of one teaspoon household bleach in one quart of water down the drain. Wash kitchen sink strainers in the dishwasher weekly.
2. Defrost Foods Safely. Don’t attempt to defrost foods quickly by leaving them sit overnight on a kitchen counter. Use one of the following methods:
a. Option I – Place a covered food in a shallow pan on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator.
b. Option II – Defrost the food item in the microwave, but keep in mind that you must finish cooking the food immediately thereafter, as some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during the microwave defrosting process.
c. Option III – If there is not enough time to thaw frozen foods, it is safe to cook foods from the frozen state. However, the cooking will take approximately 50% longer than the recommended time for fully thawed or fresh meat and poultry.
3. Practice Proper Marinating. If marinating food, marinate in a refrigerator overnight and dispose of any leftover marinade that has been in contact with raw meat. While acids in marinades can help tenderize meat, too much vinegar or hot sauce can cause meat to be more stringy and tough.
4. Keep Hot Foods Hot and Cold Foods Cold Hot foods need to be kept at temperatures above 140 F and cold foods less than 40 F. Between these two temperatures, bacteria can multiply very rapidly and reach dangerous levels in as little as two hours.
5. Don’t cook with your eyes; Cook with a thermometer. In order to ensure food has reached a safe internal temperature, always use a certified food thermometer. Any leftovers should be put away within two hours (one hour if the temperature is over 90° F).
6. Avoid Cross Contamination. Since bacteria can easily spread from one food to the next via dripping juices, hands, or utensils, think ahead to avoid cross contamination. Don’t use the same utensils and plates for raw and cooked foods, and always remember to wash your hands before preparing and consuming food.