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

28 Jul 2020

CookinGenie makes enjoying fresh food simple – our Genies shop, cook, and clean, and you get to enjoy! But in the world of COVID-19, what is the risk of having someone else prepare your food, in your home?

Ensuring Your Safety

CookinGenie takes health and cleanliness seriously. In addition to following CDC and FDA guidelines, our Genies follow food safety practices, and we have several procedures in place to ensure the safety of you and our Genies through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

To begin, we look to the CDC, which states: “Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that handling food or consuming food is associated with COVID-19,” and “there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads to people through food.”

The FDA provides additional guidance around food preparation safety. With COVID-19, we understand the concern related to high-touch surfaces, especially those in the kitchen. Our Genies take special care with handwashing and clean your kitchen when they are done preparing your food.

Image Source: FDA

In addition:

  • We will reschedule appointments if anyone – you or our Genies – are not feeling well
  • All our Genies wear masks at all times while in your home, regardless of local mandates
  • All our Genies are mindful of social distancing while in your home

So, what’s the risk?

Compared to other activities, CookinGenie provides a lower-risk option to enjoy fresh, quality meals in the comfort of your own home without a trip to the grocery store. To better understand the risk level, we compare the CookinGenie experience to the risk level of some common activities below, using the Texas Medical Association Risk Chart as a guide.

Image Source: Texas Medical Association
  • Getting restaurant takeout – Low Risk (2/10)
    • Getting restaurant takeout is low-risk due to little contact with others and the safety measures now in place.
    • With CookinGenie, there is also little contact between you and the Genie. In addition to the cleanliness and safety measures we practice, online pre-payment means there is no payment exchanged during the Genie’s visit.
  • Eating at a restaurant (outside) – Low-Moderate Risk (4/10)
    • Outdoor dining allows for free airflow, which lowers the concentration of the virus and keeps risk levels low, especially when more people are present.
    • Unless using an outdoor kitchen, CookinGenie is inside your home, but with only one Genie entering your home with a mask, the risk level remains low.
  • Eating in a restaurant (inside) – Moderate-High Risk (7/10)
    • Inside dining increases risk due to recirculated air, more people, and people not wearing masks.

Following our safety protocols, CookinGenie offers a lower-risk alternative to getting restaurant-quality food.

While there are few activities these days that are completely risk-free, CookinGenie is committed to doing all we can to offer delicious, fresh meals cooked right in your kitchen, in the safest way possible.

References

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/food-and-COVID-19.html

https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-during-emergencies/best-practices-retail-food-stores-restaurants-and-food-pick-updelivery-services-during-covid-19

https://www.texmed.org/TexasMedicineDetail.aspx?Pageid=46106&id=53977

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ChickenPadThai -CookinGenie

23 Dec 2020

For many people, pad Thai—the delectable sweet, sour, and spicy stir fry of rice noodles, tofu, eggs, veggies, bean sprouts, crushed peanuts, and an umami-rich sauce that can be found on the menu of virtually every Thai restaurant in the US—is their first taste of Thai cooking.  

So, it’s interesting to learn that the dish that most Americans think of as the quintessential Thai food didn’t even exist until the mid-20th century 

In her book Materializing Thailandnutritional anthropologist Penny Van Esterik says that the dish was born out of prime minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram’s campaign throughout the 1930s and 40s to build a national identity for Thailand. Hoping to create a sense of pride in “Thai-ness” by uniting his country through culture, he changed the nation’s name from Siam to Thailand,  commissioned a new national anthem, banned local languages and dialects from schools, and set out to create a national dish.

(Also ReadTracing Tacos – A Journey Through Time)

Curiously, the main ingredient in the dish that Phibunsongkhramwho was known as Phibunpromoted isn’t even native to Thailand. Stir-fried rice noodles originated in China and were introduced to the kingdom of Siam by Chinese traders in the 1700s. But promoting a stir-fried noodle dish helped solve a serious problem that Phibun’s nation was facing: flooding and war had caused severe rice shortage, and encouraging people to eat noodles helped preserve the country’s precious rice supply.2 Phibun’s administration took the basic recipe for stir fried rice noodles and loaded it up with nutritious bean sprouts, onions, peanuts, eggs, meats, and a tamarind-based sauce, then encouraged vendors to sell the dish from street carts all over the country. It was, Phibun’s son later pointed out, the first fast food in Thailand.3   

Phibun’s efforts to make pad Thai part of his country’s heritage succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. Today, it is a staple of the Thai dietBeyond Thailand, it has become a beloved dish worldwide: In 2011, pad Thai ranked number 5 in CNN Go’s reader poll of the “World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods.”4 Wondering how this simple noodle dish became an international culinary superstarMark Padoongpatta professor of Asian and Asian American studies at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and the author of a history of Thai food, says this, too, was driven by the Thai government as an act of culinary diplomacy: in an effort to stimulate exports and encourage tourism, it established the Global Thai Restaurant Company, Ltd. to train chefs and send them around the world to open Thai restaurants5.     

And now, CookinGenie brings this beloved classic noodle dish tyour house. We offer three varieties of classic pad Thai—Chicken, Shrimp, and Vegetarian—cooked from scratch with wholesome, authentic ingredients like rice noodles, sweet-and-sour tamarind paste, spicy chile-garlic paste, and Thai preserved radish. Book your Genie to bring a true taste of Thailand to your very own kitchen. 

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Busy Family - Why Busy Families Should Hire a Personal Chef

20 Dec 2021

Imagine a typical weekday in your house. First, you have to ensure that everyone gets up and ready for the day. Next, there’s breakfast and lunches to be made. Then, it’s time for everyone to go to school or work. Once work and school are done, there are typically errands to be run, like getting groceries, afterschool activities that kids need to be dropped off at, homework that needs to be finished, and dinner that needs to be started. Plus, all the other things that can pop up during the day. That is a lot to handle on top of spending quality time with the ones we love. 

Do you ever feel like you don’t have time to sit and help with homework because you’re making dinner? 

Do you feel so sluggish after a long day that you pop a frozen pizza into the oven for dinner even though you wish you were making something fresh? 

A personal chef could be precisely what you need to help your busy family. 

Top 6 reasons why your busy family should hire a personal chef: 

  1. Spend more time with your kids rather than at the grocery store and the kitchen. You can be more involved in your kid’s homework and learning about their day at school when you don’t have to focus on making sure a nutritious and delicious meal gets made. Your children probably would love to be able to get more time with you. 
  2. Give yourself some time to yourself. As a parent, your life is typically go-go-go. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that self-care is a vital part of life and that everyone should ensure it’s part of their life. Giving yourself the night off from cooking or having to pack your family into the car to go to a restaurant to have a fresh and hot meal prepared right in your kitchen can be exactly what you need to hit the reset button. Plus, your dishes are done for you, so you don’t even have to worry about clean-up afterward. 
  3. Create a better evening routine for your family. Your nights can be just as hectic, if not more so, than your days. Why not make it easier on yourself by having a personal chef come in occasionally as needed to help create a better evening routine for everyone in your household? 
  4. Everyone can relax. Have you ever noticed that your kids can feel it when you get worked up and upset? Giving yourself the evening by booking a personal chef to handle a tasty meal can help you to de-stress, and by extension, your family to de-stress can be just what you need on a Wednesday night. Plus, there’s the added perk of no dinner dishes for anyone. 
  5. Expand your family’s horizons when it comes to food. It can be fun to try a new meal or dish that you wouldn’t prepare for yourself. Having a professional chef whip it up in your kitchen can make new foods fun for the whole family. 
  6. Add an easy and healthy meal to your life. Many parents feel guilty about the meal they serve at the end of the day to their family. Maybe you didn’t have time for something fresh and had to turn to a frozen meal? Perhaps you’re not great at cooking healthy. A personal chef offers a great way to improve the quality of what you and your family eat, even if it’s just one day a week or a few times a month. 

Myths stopping your busy family from hiring a personal chef: 

  • Myth: It’s too expensive. Fact: A personal chef can fit just about any budget. If you go out to eat, you can afford a personal chef. Many chefs and menus you can book on CookinGenie cost about the same as you’d pay at a restaurant without having to leave your home. Of course, some meals may cost more than others, but that’s typically due to a few factors, such as ordering a larger serving size or the ingredients for the meal are more expensive at the grocery store, such as an expensive cut of meat. The beauty of CookinGenie is that you can see the price before you book. 
  • Myth: You have to employ a chef on a weekly basis to get food cooked in your home. Fact: While many private chefs only cook for one family, a personal chef can be booked for any many or as few days as you’d like. 
  • Myth: You need to upgrade to a fancy kitchen or buy unique items for your kitchen to use a personal chef. Fact: Your personal chef can prepare your meal using your kitchen and existing equipment. There may be a time when a special tool may be needed for a specific dish that you may not have, but accommodations can be made if necessary. 
  • Myth: You have to be a gourmet foodie to use a personal chef. Fact: There are many dishes prepared by professional chefs, meaning it’s easy to find a meal that will work for your family. You’ll be surprised by how many different types of food dishes you can find on CookinGenie. You can select an old family favorite or switch things up with something new. 
  • Myth: My family is too big (or small) for a personal chef. Fact: You can order as much or as little food as you need to feed your family. There is no minimum or maximum food requirement for ordering on CookinGenie. Some families take advantage of ordering more than is necessary for dinner, as then you’ll have leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  

Considering using a personal chef to help your busy family? No matter if you’re looking to utilize a personal chef once a week or once a month, you can find a chef and menu that works for your family. Check out the CookinGenie app today to see what’s possible. You’ll love having the opportunity to eat a great meal at home prepared by a professional chef that costs about the same as a meal at a restaurant while being able to spend more time focused on what’s important.  

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