Detective Foodsafe® doesn’t just help local restaurants with food safety violations but also is very concerned about what might be lurking in our kitchens at home.
There are many things we can do to make our home food preparation safer for everyone who eats the food prepared there.
Storing, handling and cooking food at home in the safest manner may require that our kitchen get a makeover!
Upgrades or home renovations could help us be safer cooks!
Kitchen Makeovers for Safety
Here are some suggestions of easy things we can do to update our kitchens with food safety in mind from Detective Foodsafe, the food safety expert!
Cutting Boards Prevent Cross Contamination
It is important to have cutting boards for different uses to help prevent cross contamination. When we have enough cutting boards, storage space could be at a premium.
Be sure there is a designated space, such as a tall cupboard, to store a variety of cutting boards.
One board is needed for raw protein foods. Preferably this is one that won’t have grooves in it after we cut for a period of time so that microbes don’t get trapped deep in the grooves. It should also be able to be washed in the dishwasher where high heat will sanitize it properly.
A separate board for cutting raw produce and one for items such as bread and pizza, as well as one for cooked protein foods are important kitchen essentials.
Be ready to purchase new boards when old ones begin to show signs of wear or gashes, which could increase the potential for food contamination.
Temperature Danger Zone
It is vital to keep hot and cold foods at the proper serving temperature and out of the temperature danger zone during preparation. Bringing home the groceries is also a consideration for how long food is out of necessary refrigeration or away from a heat source.
It is key then to have a food thermometer for measuring the temperature of raw and prepared foods.
You should also have thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer to be sure the units are storing your food at recommended temperatures.
If we serve large groups on a buffet at home, we will want to invest in warming gadgets like a crock pot, warming tray, or chafing dishes that will hold hot food at the right temperature.
Also, check the food frequently using a thermometer and remove any food not at the right temperature for re-heating or disposal.
Put cold buffet food on ice or packed in special serving trays that have ice packs built in. It is as important to test cold food as it is hot foods for proper temperature.
Maintaining proper food temperature is also important for other types of gatherings that happen outside of the home, such as picnics, tailgating or pot luck dinners. Food thermometers should be in use at these events too.
There are different types of food thermometers we can buy depending on the usage.
Dial – use in thicker foods, can use in food as it cooks, metal stem.
Digital instant read – gives a fast reading in foods at least ½”, both thick and thin foods, not for use during cooking, measures doneness at end of cooking
Thermometer fork – place in thickest part of foods at least ¼”, not for cooking, fork must be fully inserted, can’t be calibrated, good for grilling, check at end of cooking
Thermocouple – gives fastest reading, thick and thin foods, can be calibrated, costly, use at end of cooking
Oven probe – remains in food while cooking in over or covered pot, can’t be calibrated, use in most foods
Pop-up – commonly used in poultry, pops up when food reaches final internal temperature, should still use another type of thermometer to check doneness
Handwashing Prevents the Spread of Germs
We hear constantly about washing our hands to prevent the spread of germs and this is true in the kitchen too.
When designing the kitchen, be sure that soap is easily accessible at all times.
Have several hand towels to use for specific jobs such as to dry clean hands versus one we may use for drying dishes, wiping up spills or drying debris off hands during food preparation.
We may need different towel holders in key areas around the kitchen, such as inside a cupboard door, beside the sink, or even next to the stove.
Ensure our little helpers have the proper step stool in the kitchen so they can reach the sink to clean their hands thoroughly when preparing food. A good step stool can be purchased that not only allows kids to safely reach the sink and meal preparation areas of the kitchen but also matches the kitchen décor.
Cleaning Away the Microbes
It is important that we keep cleaning products available designed to sanitize food preparation equipment like knives and pans but also counters, faucets, handles and other surfaces dirty hands may have touched.
Having storage areas for these chemicals that keep them safe from the kids in the kitchen but still accessible for us to use may require planning or even a mini-makeover.
Cleaning tip: We can use a sanitizing solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water.
Be careful when using sponges for cleaning that you replace or sanitize them frequently to prevent mold or microbes from building up. If using cloths for washing and drying, be sure those are sanitized preferably with a bleach solution in the laundry on high heat.
Does the refrigerator have adequate storage spaces to separately store produce, raw proteins and ready to eat food like cheese sticks to prevent cross contamination?
Are the surfaces in the refrigerator easy to clean or are there places, especially in drawers, that catch debris and spills that are next to impossible to keep clean?
Are the refrigerator and freezer working properly and maintaining correct temperatures?
It might be time to replace a unit if we answer no to these questions.
Have we labeled and dated all the items placed into the deep chill? This practice is important not just for food quality, but also food safety, to know how long something has been in the freezer. Invest in storage containers or labels or a good marker that will not rub off when wet after you label and date the plastic freezer bag. The storage containers should close tightly to keep food fresh and other spills or odors out.
It might be beneficial to place storage containers or dividers in the freezer so you can separate items to be sure they are used before they expire. These organizational systems also help keep the items rotated first in first out.
Every food safe and well stocked kitchen needs several things to be complete.
- Insulated grocery bags to transport groceries home safely
- Ice chests and ice packs to keep cold food cold
- Lunch boxes that are fully insulated against food spoilage
All should be able to withstand cleaning.
In addition to adequate numbers and types of cutting boards, our kitchen should have plenty of serving utensils, plates, and other items and a storage place for the many items you need.
Each food on the buffet table needs its own serving spoon. Also have plenty of plates so your guests can use a clean plate for each trip to the food bar.
It is important to keep raw and cooked food separate so bring plenty of clean serving platters to the grill to use before and after cooking.
Thinking through the food preparation process from beginning to end and closing any gaps to prevent food poisoning so we have an upgraded kitchen that will keep us and our families safe won’t take too much effort.
Our families are worth it!