September is National Food Safety Month – Here are Some Keys for Cooking and Serving Food Safely

National Food Safety Month— Keys for Cooking and Serving Food Safely

24 Sep 2021

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September is National Food Safety Month – Here are Some Keys for Cooking and Serving Food Safely

Cooking for friends and family is one of the great joys in life. But without practicing proper food safety, cooking can make your loved ones sick, or in extreme cases, even kill them. Luckily, all it takes to prepare and serve food safely is following a few simple rules and using common sense. In honor of food safety month, here are some of the most important things to remember when cooking.

Wash your hands

One of the most important things you can do to keep food safe is constant handwashing. The first thing you should do when you walk into the kitchen is washing your hands. And wash them again after every completed task or when you start handling different ingredients, especially after touching raw meat.

One of the most common ways foodborne illnesses are spread is by bacteria jumping from dirty hands to the food. So, you cannot wash your hands too often. When washing your hands, make sure you run them under warm running water for at least 20 seconds, using antibacterial soap. Scrub between your fingers and under your fingernails every time and dry off with a clean cloth or paper towel. For extra protection, turn off the knob on the sink with that paper towel instead of your bare hands.

When in doubt, throw it out

Nobody likes to waste food. But holding on to old food after it’s gone bad is a good way to get your guests sick.  If anything in your fridge or pantry is moldy, slimy, smells rotten, or is well past its expiration date, just throw it out.

When cooking with canned ingredients, beware of cans that are rusted, dented, or swollen. Swollen cans are a sign of botulism, a dangerous spore that can be fatal. If there are any physical deformities on the can, put it right into the trash. There is a chance that every now and again you may throw out some food that’s still safe to use, but it’s always better safe than sorry.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold

As a general rule of thumb, you should try and avoid keeping foods out at room temperature as much as possible, especially more sensitive items like meat, dairy, and eggs. When cooking and storing food, be mindful of the “temperature danger zone”, a temperature range between 41⁰F and 135⁰F. This is the range in which bacteria grows and multiplies most quickly.

Temperatures above or below this range are usually too extreme for most bacteria to survive. So, if a dish is meant to be served hot, you should keep it on the stove or in the oven at 135⁰F or higher for as long as possible, and if it is meant to be served cold, you should keep it in refrigeration at 41⁰F or lower until it’s ready to serve.

It may be helpful to have a digital thermometer on hand to help ensure you’re keeping foods at the proper temperatures. If any highly sensitive foods like meat or dairy are left out in the temperature danger zone for more than four hours, they may be unsafe to eat. Any cooked food that is being reheated should be heated to 165⁰F for at least 15 seconds before serving.

Beware of Cross Contamination

Cross contamination occurs when bacteria or other contaminants are passed to food from shared surfaces or through the air. For example, if you cut raw chicken on a cutting board then later use that same cutting board for fresh vegetables, the vegetables may be contaminated with bacteria from the chicken. To avoid cross contamination, use different utensils for raw meats and vegetables. Also be sure to wash and disinfect counters and other kitchen surfaces frequently.

Consider food allergies

One of the scariest parts of cooking for others can be dealing with food allergies. Allergic reactions to food can range anywhere from a mildly upset stomach to life-threatening anaphylactic shock, where the victim’s throat can begin to shut.

Before your event, ask all your guests if they have any food allergies. If anyone in your party has a severe allergy, consider serving something without that ingredient at all. For people with severe allergies like nuts or shellfish, they may not even need to actively consume the allergen to have a dangerous reaction, just an invisible trace amount may be enough to cause serious symptoms. So, just making a portion without that ingredient may not be enough to keep them safe. When it comes to cooking for people with food allergies, you cannot be too careful.

Cook proteins properly

A common cause of foodborne illness is undercooked meats, especially chicken. Meats need to be cooked to proper internal temperatures to kill the majority of bacteria and parasites that can make you sick. When cooking meats, use a digital thermometer to measure the internal temperature and don’t serve it until the meat comes up to a safe level.

For example, chicken and other poultry need to reach an internal temperature of at least 165⁰F for 15 seconds before they’re safe to eat. For more specifics, check out our complete guide to safely cooking meat.

Wash raw ingredients well

Before cooking with fruits, herbs, or vegetables, rinse them off under cold running water to remove any debris, bacteria, or chemical coating. This is especially important with cantaloupe and honeydew, which always should be washed before cutting. It’s also good practice to rinse off your eggs before cooking with them.

Be extra cautious with the most vulnerable members of your family

When cooking for older or immunocompromised people, you have to be extra careful and attentive. For someone who’s young and healthy, a case of salmonella from an undercooked chicken breast could cause a few days of illness. But for an older person or someone suffering from an autoimmune disease, that salmonella could be fatal.

CookinGenie takes food safety seriously

When you book a chef through CookinGenie, you can be sure that food safety will be the top priority. Many of the genies are professionals with formal food safety training, and others are experienced home cooks with a proven track record of keeping people safe. Food safety is stressed, and every genie knows that’s the most important thing when cooking for you.

Better yet, when you allow a CookinGenie chef into your home, you can watch them cook to be sure the food is being handled properly. Unlike a restaurant, this in-home set-up allows much more transparency and peace of mind than dining out or ordering takeout.

Author – Jared Kent

 


Related Post

29 Oct 2019

Food waste is a growing problem in America. According to a recent study, the average American family of four discards nearly $1600 in discarded produce alone annually. That’s right this post is ode to all those banana’s who never became banana bread. That number is not including dairy, meat or grain waste which are also high on the list. What would it mean for your family to have $133 more in your bank account every month? Factor in dairy, meat, and grain waste and that number climbs much higher.

The waste is also an environmental problem. It contributes to the releasing of dangerous gases as it decomposes in landfills. It’s estimated that one third of all food grown is lost or wasted. In fact, some food is left to rot in fields, shipped to feed livestock, or sadly shipped directly to landfills because it’s not cosmetically pleasing to average Americans. That’s right, we only buy pretty tomatoes. If a fruit or vegetable looks strange, grows oddly or has a blemish, consumers won’t purchase it – even when it’s perfectly fine to eat.

Additionally, families are purchasing food with every intent to use it, but life gets in the way. We’ve all done it. Making dinner was too much work so we grabbed dinner on the way home. Fast forward to the weekend and you’re dumping soggy lettuce out of your crisper drawer before you head to the grocery store to stock up for a new week.

There are lots of creative solutions out there. Some families have taken to composting, or meal prepping to try to cut down on food waste. There is one more solution on the table that more and more families are considering. That is hiring a CookinGenie – someone who shops & cooks your favorite foods – right in your own kitchen.

So how does that address the issue of food waste? Our Genies approach food purchasing, prep, and waste differently. They can use leftovers to cook for the next family on their schedule.

Many times, food waste is a result of not knowing how to create a meal around unused portions. Half an onion and some chicken bones? A family would dispose of that. An experienced cook would make chicken stock for a later meal. Hire our genies allow him or her to shop for highly consumable food items in bulk, he or she will only serve you the food you and your family will want to eat. This is the best use of all the food purchased, effectively reducing food waste immensely. Not to mention cost effective, even with the cost of hiring a person you will most likely end up saving money instead of throwing it away in the form of food that has gone bad and eating meals out. Remember if you are spending less than $1600 a year on this service, you’ll be saving money. Just something to chew on. We look forward to cooking for you & your family once our lives return to normal from the current COVID-19 crisis.

References:
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/americans-waste-nearly-a-pound-of-food-each-per-day-study-finds/

Households Lose Up to $1,600 a Year in Food Waste, U of G Study Reveals

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28 Mar 2020

The other day, I picked up some ham from an online retailer. It was a premium 8-pound spiral-sliced ham, slow-cooked and smoked for 24 hours featuring a delicious torch-glazed brown sugar crust. Tempted? I certainly was. However, I happened to glance at the nutritional facts & noticed a detail – 41% (990 mg) sodium per serving. Is that good? Or bad? Should I care about this number? Or, just enjoy the ham?

Let us dig deeper.

The terms “Sodium” and “Salt” are sometimes used interchangeably. Salt is made of sodium and chlorine & occurs naturally in some foods, & is added in canned, processed or cooked foods. In the right amounts, in our bodies, sodium is vital. It supports our nervous system, muscles & fluid balance. Take too much though, and you start to see high blood pressure. Additionally, heart & kidney diseases are common effects of having extra sodium in the body.

But, what about my ham? Is it safe to eat? American Heart Association (AHA) suggests having around 1500 mg of Sodium per day. You may be permitted a bit more if you lose body fluids due to sporting activities. This boils down to a teaspoon of salt every day. But, on average 9 out of 10 Americans consume almost double the recommended sodium. Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that of our daily sodium intake, 65% comes from food bought in stores, 25% comes from restaurants and 10% comes from home cooked foods. Eating fresh homemade meals can go a long way in keeping us within the bounds of recommended amounts of Sodium. This is exactly what CookinGenie helps our customers with. All you do is pick your favorite foods from www.cookingenie.com & we will show up with the groceries at your kitchen & cook the food right there. 100% control over what goes in your food.

As for my ham, I did eat it – but now with the awareness that just one serving of the ham gave me almost half the daily sodium I needed for my body for the entire day.

References:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/potassium_and_sodium_out_of_balance

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/salt-and-sodium/

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sodium/9-out-of-10-americans-eat-too-much-sodium-infographic

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Meal prepping for dinner - CookinGenie

21 Apr 2021

Today, the age-old question of how to meal prep for dinner is more complicated than ever. With a range of different meal delivery services, prepared and frozen foods delivered to your doorand a wide market for takeout, the choices are seemingly endless. Now, entering the fray is a new service, CookinGenie, which rethinks the idea of dining at home by bringing a culinary expert into your home to prepare a delicious, home-cooked meal in your very own kitchen. So, with all these choices available, let’s look at the process, price, positivesand negatives of each to find out the option that might work best for you 

 

Meal Delivery Kits for Meal Prepping 

Price: 

$-$$ With so many different meal delivery kits available, the prices can run anywhere from $5/meal to $18/meal. But for most mainstream services like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, $10-12 per meal is standard.  

Process: 

Visit the website of one of the many meal delivery services, create a profileand begin choosing your dishesWith a few clicks, you can have boxes of fresh ingredients and recipes arriving as soon as the next day. Then, unpack the box, follow the recipe, and cook yourself a meal 

Pros:

  • The recipes are quick and easy to make.  
  • Feeling of accomplishment from cooking your own food 
  • You can customize the number of meals you want. 
  • Kits are accommodating to dietary restrictions and allergies.  
  • Precise portioning cuts down on food waste. 
  • The platform is easy to use, offers plenty of fresh, healthy choices. 

Cons: 

  • Kits come with excess packaging to get rid of.  
  • Subscription required. 
  • For hungrier eaters, portion sizes may leave a little bit to be desired.  
  • On occasion, ingredients may arrive spoiled.  
  • Dishes are not quite chef or restaurant quality.  
  • You still need to put the time and effort into cooking and cleaning up afterward.  
  • Usually supporting a large, multinational corporation.  
The bottom line:

Easier than shopping and cooking for yourself and cheaper than eating out, meal prepping kits are a good mix of affordability and convenience. But if you’re looking for a more memorable experience that you don’t have to cook yourself, there are better options out there. 

 

Ready to Eat/Frozen Meal Delivery Service 

Price:

$$ There are many different services that ship frozen meals to your door, and they can all fluctuate on price, with some high-end options out there. However, you can normally expect to pay about $11-15 per meal, plus shipping fees 

Process: 

Create a profile on a frozen meal delivery site such as Home Bistro, choose your meal(s) or meal plan(s)wait for delivery, and pop the box in the microwave to heat up. 

Pros:

  • Good variety of chef-inspired meals that come with protein, starch, vegetable, and sauce.
  • Many of the meals are highly tailored to specific diets such as weight loss, keto, and paleo. 
  • Most of the meals are ready to eat after just a few minutes in the microwave or oven 
  • Frozen meals can keep in the freezer indefinitely.  
  • No cleanup required.  

Cons:    

  • Many services don’t begin to offer free shipping unless you order a certain amount.  
  • Reheating frozen food can feel boring and impersonal; food may be bland 
  • Boxes may take a while to arrive. 
  • Sometimes food may come partially defrosted or not reheat evenly.  
The bottom line:

There’s no denying the convenience of being able to pop something in the microwave and have a hot meal in a few minutes. But while frozen meals have certainly improved from the days of supermarket TV dinnersthey’re more of an occasional fare than something you’d want to eat regularly.  

 

Takeout/Delivery

Price:

$-$$ Depending on where you’re getting takeout from, the price can fluctuate greatly. 

The Process:

Call up a restaurant, go online to order, or use one of the many apps like DoorDash or Uber Eats to set up a pickup or delivery.  

Pros:

  • During the pandemic, it’s easier than ever to get takeout 
  • There’s a great variety of places to get fresh, healthy, delicious takeout from. 
  • Usually only takes about 30 minutes to get food.  
  • Supporting local businesses.  

Cons 

  • You have to drive to the restaurant or pay extra delivery fees. 
  • Generally, one can only get one type of cuisine at once and may not have leftovers to enjoy all week.   
  • If you have dietary restrictions or allergies, it could be tricky to ensure the meal fits your needs. 
  • Food apps layer on their service charges and those can add up. 
The bottom line:

Generally speaking, takeout is a relatively affordable, convenient way to have dinner once or twice a week.  

 

CookinGenie for Meal Prepping

Price:

$$ Prices will differ by Genie and by dish, but most are between $10-$15 per portion. 

The Process:

Visit CookinGenie.com, type in your location, and you can browse through our many talented genies. You can look through each genie’s menu and profile individually, or search by dish or type of cuisine. Then, select the dishes you want to order and pick a time and date for a genie to come to your home and cook for you. They will arrive with everything they need, cook you a delicious meal, and restore your kitchen to the state they found it in.  

Pros: 

  • CookinGenie food is fresh, wholesomeand delicious.  
  • A skilled cook preparing restaurant-quality food for you adds a unique personal touch 
  • A wide variety of different cuisines and dishes are available at once. 
  • Service is accommodating to dietary restrictions and allergies.  
  • Generous, family-friendly sizes of 4 or 8 portions.  
  • Flexibility; date night, dinner parties, special occasionsweeknight family meals, and meal prepping can all be taken care of by CookinGenie
  • You don’t have to leave home, cook, or clean. 
  • Supporting a local business and local chefs.  

Cons: 

  • CookinGenie does require some planning ahead.  
  • May take a couple of hours after the Genie arrives for food to be ready.  
The bottom line:

In terms of affordability, CookinGenie is on par with takeout, cheaper than frozen meal delivery, and just a hair more than most meal kits. But that small difference is well worth it when you consider the superior food and convenience of not having to cook yourself. With so many options out there, it can be hard to decide what the dinner plan should be. But all things considered, in terms of taste and overall value for your hard-earned dollars, CookinGenie stands head and shoulders above the rest.

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