The two leading factors in food-born illness are temperature abuse and cross-contamination. The key to serving safe food is to handle food safely. Spend your time training your family in principles of sanitation time and temperature control.
Following these guidelines will prevent food from being subject to time and temperature abuse.
Have a bi-metallic stem thermometer available. You can find it in the kitchen gadget aisle at your local grocery store.
When preparing food take out only as much food from storage as you can prepare at one time. For example: if you are breading six chicken breasts and are doing something else at the same time only take out two chicken breasts, bread them and then store them in your refrigerator. Then do the next two. Continue breading with the next two. Cook, hold, cool and reheat food properly. The idea is to not have six pieces of chicken sitting around unrefrigerated. I have teenagers who eat at different times due to school and work schedules so when I cook pasta I cook and serve, then put the rest in the refrigerator right a way. Do not leave it sitting on the counter. They can always reheat their dinner in the microwave. Cooling down the foods will be covered in a future article entitled “Leftovers”.
When heating or cooling food, pass it through the middle of the temperature danger zone 70 degrees F to 120 degrees F as quickly as possible. Microorganisms grow faster in the middle of the range. Discard food if it spends more than four hours total in the temperature danger zone 41 degrees F to 140 degrees F. This includes time spent in the temperature danger zone during purchasing, storage, preparation and cooking and then again during cooling and reheating.
Following these guidelines will prevent against cross- contamination.
Prepare raw meats, fish and poultry in separate areas from produce or cooked or ready to eat foods. If space is not available prepare these items at different times.
Assign specific equipment such as cutting boards, utensils and containers to each type of food product. For example, use one set of cutting boards utensils and containers just for poultry and another set for meat and a third set for produce.
Clean and sanitize all work areas, equipment and utensils.
If you have small children at home it is never too early to teach them good food safety skills. Start out with proper hand washing. It is a gift that will last a lifetime.