Everyone is wary of getting food poisoning when they go out to eat or get takeout. Someone else is responsible for cooking your food, and you can’t see what’s going on behind the scenes. However, it’s also important to think about food hygiene when you’re at home. At home, you have much more control over your food and cooking environment. You can decide what to cook and how to handle your food to ensure it’s always a safe experience. It’s important to do for you and your family to keep everyone healthy. If you want to improve your food hygiene at home, there are lots of things you could be doing.
Understand the Risks
If you want to be more hygienic when you cook and reduce the chance of illness, you should start by understanding what risks there are. This involves learning a little about which foods can be risky in their cooked or uncooked forms and how to handle them properly. You can learn a little about the bacteria or parasites that might occur in some foods and how you can combat them. The internet is always a good resource when it comes to this. For example, you can find plenty of salmonella and listeria information to read about how and when they occur and how to avoid them.
Washing Your Hands Properly
One of the simplest ways to be more hygienic in the kitchen is to wash your hands. You might wash your hands before you start cooking and perhaps during cooking too, but are you doing it correctly? A quick scrub might not be enough if you’re not thorough. Make sure that when you wash your hands, you use enough soap to cover them. You also need to ensure that you wash over your palms, the backs of your hands and between your fingers too. It’s also a good idea to scrub under your nails. Don’t just wash your hands before you start preparing food. If you’ve been handling raw meat or fish or raw eggs, it’s a good idea to wash your hands before moving on to doing something else.
Cleaning Your Kitchen
Of course, cleaning your kitchen is a huge part of staying hygienic when you cook at home. You might clean your kitchen regularly, but what further steps can you take to help stop the spread of germs? Choosing the right tools to clean your kitchen is a good start. Using disposable cloths and other items is cleaner. However, if you’re trying to be more eco-friendly, you can also disinfect reusable sponges and cloths. If you use brushes for doing the dishes, you should wash them regularly too. When you mop your kitchen floor, use one bucket for detergent and another for rinsing. It’s best to clean surfaces after cooking too, instead of leaving it until later.
Stay Up to Date with Food Recalls
The food you buy is an important part of staying hygienic in your kitchen. While you might find it easy to avoid buying from dodgy retailers, that won’t always protect you. Even your supermarket food could have problems. One thing you should do is be on the lookout for is product recalls. Sometimes, food manufacturers might discover a problem with one of their products or with their facilities. You might see recalls on the news, in stores, or perhaps online. If you did your grocery shopping online, you might even get an email about a product recall. Follow the instructions on a recall notice, so you know what to do. You might be instructed to throw the product away or perhaps take it back to the store.
Use Separate Chopping Boards
When you’re cooking, it’s important to keep different types of food separate from each other. You should separate meat and fish from vegetables, and cooked food from uncooked food. Although it might seem like a hassle, one of the best ways to prevent cross-contamination is to use separate chopping boards for different types of food. To make it easier, you can buy a color-coded set. They are often labeled too, so it’s easy to know which one you should be using for vegetables and which one you should use for raw meat.
Washing Fruit and Vegetables
Many people are uncertain about whether they should wash fruit and vegetables before preparing them. They might wash them if there’s visible dirt but otherwise not bother. However, it’s a good idea to wash them, especially if you eat them raw. Even if you peel vegetables before you cook or eat them, it’s a good idea to wash them. Washing will help to get rid of bacteria that could be on fruit and vegetables. In some places, it’s also a good idea to wash off any pesticides that could have been used. There might also be general dust and dirt from transportation and storage.
Cooking Food Properly
Being aware of the safest ways to cook your food is essential. There are different rules for different types of food, so it’s important to know what’s what. You can enjoy a medium steak without much risk, but there’s no healthy way to only partially cook chicken. You can kill bacteria in any food if you cook it at the correct temperature for long enough. Cooking food so it’s piping hot all the way through will ensure it is safe. Only rare beef or lamb joints should ever be pink in the middle. If you use another method of killing bacteria, such as an acidic marinade, make sure you do it correctly.
Store Leftovers Properly
It’s not just how you cook your food that matters but how you store it too. If you have leftovers or you prepare something to enjoy later, you need to put it away safely. You will probably put it in the fridge or freezer to keep it fresh for when you need it. The most important things to remember are preventing cross-contamination and how long to keep something before it’s no longer edible. You should make sure that everything you put away is wrapped up or sealed. Many things can last several weeks or even months in the freezer but you should check before you freeze something. Label and date everything you store so that you know what it is and how long you have kept it.
Defrosting and Reheating Food
If you store food in your fridge or freezer, you will eventually want to eat it. Some things can be eaten straight from the fridge, but other foods need to be reheated carefully. There are also some foods, such as rice, that you ideally shouldn’t reheat. The golden rule of reheating any food is to make sure that it’s piping hot all the way through. You can use whichever method you prefer, as long as you heat it all the way through. When it comes to defrosting, it’s best to let something defrost slowly. Setting it in the fridge to defrost is ideal so it doesn’t get too warm from being sat on the side. However, you can also use your microwave to defrost something if you’re going to cook it right away. Use the defrost setting to do it slowly without cooking your food.
Debunk Food Hygiene Myths
Just like anything else, there are lots of myths associated with food hygiene. Some of them could increase the spread of germs or your chances of food poisoning if you get them wrong. For example, many people think you should wash raw chicken before you prepare it. However, this isn’t a good idea. Rather than being more hygienic, it can actually increase your risk of food poisoning from campylobacter. Splashing water can spread germs around your kitchen. Instead, make sure to cook your chicken all the way through. Keep raw chicken covered and chilled before you cook it, and wash utensils that have been in contact with raw chicken.
There are other myths you should be aware of too. For example, using more bleach to clean your kitchen won’t necessarily make it a cleaner space. You only need a small amount to get rid of bacteria in your kitchen. Before you believe anything about how to stay hygienic in the kitchen, make sure you check the validity of any statements.
When to Be Extra Careful
There are some times in life when you need to be extra careful with food hygiene. For example, there are several foods that people recommend pregnant women to avoid. These include sushi, cured meats, and unpasteurized milk. Both older and younger people can be more sensitive to food poisoning. Those over the age of 65 should be more cautious about the risks. They should be careful with similar foods to the ones pregnant women need to be wary of. If you’re preparing food for your children, and especially for toddlers, there are also some things that might not be age-appropriate for them.
Practicing good food hygiene at home helps to keep you and your family safe. Even if you think you know what you’re doing, make sure you aren’t falling for common misconceptions.