“Salmonella! Campylobacter! E. coli! Oh, my!”
The key to getting the most enjoyment from your food is to use proper practices to prepare and store it safely. This will ensure that your food lasts longer and won’t grow harmful bacteria that can make you and your family sick. It’s the final step in our Healthy Food 101 review this month.
Checking In: Did you enjoy Quick & Easy Meals last week?
I hope you had a chance to make some of the recipes I provided last week, including the world’s easiest soup (seriously, my chef friends are going to laugh me out of the business for this one, but it’s yummy, healthy and quick to the table). Why not plan some time this weekend to make a couple of the recipes? You’ll try something new and save yourself valuable time during the busy week.
Safe Food Preparation & Storage
Admittedly, these are not the most exciting topics we’ll cover. But they’re important. When you’re taking the time to make a nice meal, you don’t want to serve it up with a side of salmonella. All food contains bacteria, most of it harmless or even beneficial. Some bacteria can be harmful to humans (see sub-title above). By knowing how to handle, prepare and store food safely, you will reduce the risk of making those who eat your food sick. Here are the basics:
- Wash your hands (with soap!)
- Keep cold food in the refrigerator until you need it.
- Use cutting boards that can go in the dishwasher.
- Don’t cross-contaminate. This means don’t cut vegetables on the board you just cut raw chicken on. Wash the board with hot, soapy water first. Better still: have one board just for raw poultry and another for produce.
- Use a reliable food thermometer to determine if meat is cooked properly. This is really important for meat such as poultry and pork, which can present safety issues if not thoroughly cooked. I rely on this thermometer by CDN because it works quickly and it’s accurate.
- Poultry should be cooked to 165′ internal temperature.
- Pork should reach an internal temperature of 160′ (according to the USDA). In culinary school, we were taught that pork was fine when cooked to an internal temperature of 137′ (but at this temperature, the pork is very pink and that makes people nervous). I like to compromise, especially with the leaner cuts such as pork tenderloin that can dry out if you overcook them. I cook pork to 150′ and let it rest before cutting. The internal temperature rises as it rests, it’s still a little pink, very juicy, and safe to eat.
- Keep cold food cold and hot food hot.
When I was in culinary school, we learned about: “The Danger Zone” . I always thought this made a dull topic sound really exciting. The Danger Zone is the range of temperatures between 40′ and 140′. You want to keep food either very cold (below 40′) or very hot (above 140′) to minimize the risk of harmful bacteria. Once food has been in The Danger Zone for 2 hours, it’s time to throw it out. At that point, bacteria has been able to thrive, multiply, get married, spawn many generations, build whole cities, bridges & tunnels. Do you really want to eat them? Me neither.
- Cool food quickly. A small fan on the kitchen counter is handy.
- Transfer to safe containers. There is a ton of concern and some controversy over BPA, a compound found in plastic. Err on the side of caution and consider glass, Pyrex, stainless steel containers. I really like these glass containers and these glass containers. They remind me of containers my grandmothers used, and that’s good enough for me.
For more information, check out the USDA’s website .
In-Season Offerings: Great Cookbooks
As we close out this month’s Healthy Food 101, here are some cookbooks that will inspire your homecooking.
Real Food for Healthy Kids by Tracey Seaman and Tanya Wenman Steel: great recipes and ideas to feed your children.
30-Minute Meal series by Rachael Ray: I include these for the speed factor. Not all recipes are healthy, but a few tweaks can make most of them so.
Taste Pure and Simple by Michel Nischan: Take this book to the farmer’s market with you and be inspired by both the inventive recipes and fresh local food.
The Weeks Ahead
Two Reasons to Celebrate: National Grilling Month and National Blueberry Month
Antioxidants: Why we need them and how to eat them