When you invite people over for a party, you don’t want it spoiled by foodborne illness. Follow these simple food safety rules when cooking to protect your guests from foodborne illness.
1. Wash your hands well and often
Washing your hands well and often is the golden rule of food safety. Your hands are full of bacteria, and you pick up new bacteria every time you touch something.
Always wash your hands before you start cooking and between every task — and take the time to wash your hands properly.
First, wet your hands with hot water. Add soap and scrub your hands for at least 15 seconds before rinsing and drying.
2. Put your hair up
If you have long hair, put it up in a ponytail or wear a hat before you start cooking. Not only is it gross to find hairs in your food, hair can spread germs.
3. Don’t let foods touch to prevent cross-contamination
When different types of foods touch, they can contaminate each other. Keep raw meat away from foods that won’t be cooked, like fruits, vegetables, and snack food.
Remember that utensils can also spread contamination. If you use a knife to cube chicken, make sure to clean and sanitize it — and your cutting board — before using them to cut anything else.
Even better, use separate knives and cutting boards to cut different types of food.
4. Always wash produce
Because produce like fruits and vegetables is rarely cooked, it can spread bacteria easily. Although it should have been washed before arriving at your grocery store or farmer’s market, it’s a good idea to wash it again at home.
Some fruits and vegetables are naturally protected from pathogens. For example, watermelon has a thick rind that keeps its fruit safe. You should still take time to rinse off these kinds of produce before cutting into them.
5. Never wash meat
As you get into the habit of always washing produce, you might need to break a bad habit: washing raw meat.
If you grew up watching certain celebrity chefs, you might have seen them wash raw chicken before cooking it. This is a big mistake! Chicken, like other types of raw meat, can carry all kinds of bacteria, including Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria.
When you rinse meat in your kitchen sink, the water can carry bacteria to other surfaces as it splashes, like the counter and nearby utensils. In addition, washing meat doesn’t even remove germs.
6. Cook food to proper temperatures
Cooking food to the temperatures recommended by the FDA will kill any bacteria that may have been in the ingredients.
In general, foods fall into four cooking categories:
- 165°F — poultry and dishes made from previously cooked foods
- 155°F — ground meat and seafood
- 145°F — beef, pork, veal, lamb, and roasts
- 135°F — fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes (like beans)
7. Don’t leave food out all night
When you’re at a party, it’s easy to lose track of how long the food has been left out. However, it’s important to remember that the longer food sits in the temperature danger zone, the more bacteria it grows.
Certain foods, known as time and temperature control for safety (TCS) foods, are more susceptible to bacterial growth than others. You can think of TCS foods as perishable food items.
Some common TCS foods include:
- Animal products, including meat, eggs, and dairy
- Sliced melons and tomatoes
- Cooked vegetables
- Cream or custard
- Cut leafy greens, like green salad
You can only leave TCS foods out for a maximum of four hours. After four hours, the levels of bacteria on the food is likely to cause foodborne illness.
Follow these basic food safety principles to Keep your kitchen — and your party — safe from foodborne illness. Learn more food safety tips in our food handlers training.
— Jessica Pettit