Originally published in Grow With Nutrition April 15, 2012.
It is that time of year again for spring cleaning. This is a great opportunity to put your kitchen on the ‘to do’ list including the pantry, refrigerator and freezer. The time is now… to remove the contents from each, throw out food items that have expired or spoiled and clean the interior thoroughly. Here are some helpful tips to remain focused on keeping your food safe as you spring clean. Remember these four easy steps…Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill!
Wash your hands and food contact surfaces often. Bacteria can be transferred by hands, cutting boards, and knives and quickly spread to all kitchen surfaces. Cleaning often can stop that from happening. Wipe up spills immediately and clean surfaces (including the refrigerator) thoroughly with hot, soapy water, and rinse them well. Don’t forget about the walls and floor. Clean the interior of your fridge, freezer and pantry on a frequent basis.
Separate (avoid cross-contamination)
Cross-contamination is the spread of bacteria from one surface to another, and it is especially likely to take place when thawing or preparing raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Keeping things clean will help but here are some other tips:
- Keep and store fresh or frozen raw meats and any juices that may leak from them away from already-cooked food or fresh produce.
- Thaw and store raw meat, poultry, and seafood in a container on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so juices can’t drip on other foods.
- Thaw meat, poultry, and seafood in the fridge, not on the counter.
- Wash cutting boards with hot, soapy water after each use.
- Replace cutting boards that are worn or have developed hard-to-clean grooves where bacteria can live.
- Never place cooked food back on the same plate or cutting board that previously held raw food.
Cook (foods to proper temperatures)
Meat, poultry, and seafood should be cooked to a safe internal temperature to be sure bacteria are killed.
- Click here for a chart of the internal cooking temperatures for some common foods.
- Check the internal temperature using a food thermometer.
- Never assume it is cooked just by looking at it.
Chill (refrigerate promptly)
Bacteria grows the fastest between 4°C (40°F) to 60°C (140°F) – the temperature danger zone. The most ideal way to chill food to 4°C (40°F) is within 4 hours to reduce the opportunity for bacteria to grow (less bacteria = decrease risk of the food becoming contaminted).
Chill leftovers by dividing the food into shallow containers for rapid cooling.
The interior of your fridge should be kept at 4°C (40°F) or slightly below. Use an appliance thermometer to make sure the temperature stays cool.
Eight Final Tips for a Clean and Safe Kitchen
- Use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Use another for salads (and other produce) and another one for ready-to-eat food. Rinse produce well under running water.
- Wash the lids of canned foods before opening them to prevent dirt from getting into the food. Clean the can opener’s blade after use.
- Take small appliances apart (food processors, meat grinders and blenders) after you use them, and clean thoroughly.
- Air-dry dishes and utensils if you can, or dry them with clean kitchen towels.
- Clean the pantry regularly, keeping food off the floor. Store food in sealed containers.
- Thoroughly wash containers and utensils that were in contact with raw food before you reuse them.
- Don’t overload your fridge and freezer. Cool air must circulate freely to keep food properly chilled.
- Once a week, make it a habit to throw out perishable foods that should no longer be eaten.
Once the major cleaning is done, you can enjoy the feeling of satisfaction of having a clean, organized kitchen to make all your favourite meals in!