Every year, 1 in 6 Americans will get sick from foodborne illnesses. Luckily, foodborne illnesses are easy to prevent by following proper cooking techniques and hygiene practices! Follow the steps below to keep you and your family safe.
The types of bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses multiply quickest between 40-140*F. Steps to cooking food correctly:
- Use a food thermometer. You cannot determine if food is done based on its color and texture alone. When you believe your food is done cooking, insert a food thermometer into the thickest part of the food avoiding bone and gristle. Follow our Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart below.
- Keep food hot after cooking. Keep your food hot using a chafing dish, warming tray, or slow cooker to prevent bacterial growth. Food should be above 140*F.
- Microwave food to 165*F or higher. Microwave your food according to package directions, stir food halfway through cooking, and use a food thermometer to make sure your meal is above 165*F.
Clean your hands and surfaces often.
Bacteria can live on many surfaces of your kitchen including your cutting boards, utensils, counters, and hands. Steps to cleaning your kitchen correctly:
- Wash your hands correctly. Wet your hands with warm or cold water. Apply soap, and lather your hands for 20 seconds, being sure to clean the back of your hands, under your finger nails, and between your fingers. Rinse the soap off of your hands, and dry your hands with a clean towel or air dry.
Wash your hands:
- Before eating
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- After handling raw or undercooked eggs and meat
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal or animal waste
- After handling garbage
- After using the toilet
- Clean all kitchen utensils after each use. Wipe up spills on your counters using a disinfectant and a paper towel or clean wash cloth. Wash utensils with hot, soapy water, rinse, and dry after each use.
- Wash fruits and veggies. Even if you will not be consuming the peel, bacteria can spread from the outside to the inside while peeling or cutting the produce. Cut away any damaged part of the fruit or veggie, rinse it under running water, and scrub with a produce brush if it is a firm fruit or vegetable. Meat, poultry, and eggs do not have to be washed, because washing them can spread bacteria further if their juices get in your sink or on your counters.
Refrigerate your food properly.
Perishable foods need to be properly chilled within two hours after removing them from a refrigerator. Steps to chilling your food properly:
- Do not overstuff your fridge. Make sure the cold air can circulate and chill all of the foods in your refrigerator. Your refrigerator should be between 32*-40* F. Make sure all perishable foods, including leftovers, are chilled within 2 hours.
- Do not thaw or marinate foods at room temperature. Bacteria grows rapidly at room temperature, so it is important to thaw them properly. You can thaw foods by :
- Placing food in the refrigerator the night before you use it
- Submerge the food in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes
- Thaw it in the microwave according to manufacturer’s instructions
- Cook it frozen, which usually takes 50% longer than thawed foods
- Throw away old food. Learn when certain foods need to be thrown away by clicking here.
Separate your foods.
Cross contamination happens when a perishable food contaminates a non-perishable food. Avoid foodborne illnesses by keeping foods separate. Prevent cross contamination by:
- Using separate utensils for perishable foods. Have a cutting board for meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs and another cutting board for fruits, vegetables, and grains. Wash all utensils thoroughly after each use. Replace old cutting boards.
- Separate foods in the grocery store. Keep meat and eggs away from fruits and vegetables. Place them in separate bags at the checkout.
Separate foods in the fridge. Keep meat and eggs on the bottom shelves so their juices do not drip onto foods below. Place meat in a sealed bag and keep eggs in their original carton.