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

30 Oct 2019

Gig economy is a term that has been gaining in popularity for the past few years. Also sometimes referred to as the freelance economy. It’s describing a new financial path where workers support themselves with a variety of short-term projects or jobs that do not provide traditional benefits such as healthcare or retirement. This phrase gained traction around the financial collapse in 2009 when many unemployed workers made their way by “gigging” or working as many small jobs as they could to string together an income.

By 2015 the gig economy had shifted again. With the rise of technology and the emergence of companies such as Uber & Lyft. Public opinion on this type of work changed. Now it’s drawing a larger pool of people by offering things like flexible hours. It tends to attract professionals who want location freedom and the ability to set their own schedule. Then there are people who only occasionally gig to earn a few extra dollars. This has been a lucrative avenue for those who have a regular income but don’t mind taking on an extra task to make a little extra green. This has become common for retirees who might rent out a spare room with AirBnB every now and then, or a commuter who can pick up an extra passenger using one of the many ride hailing apps.

Factors of a gig economy

A gig economy can benefit both individuals and businesses by making work more adaptable to the needs of the consumers. It allows people to both specialize in something and move between industries along with their interests. The benefits of a gig economy include cheaper and more readily available services.

Gig economies tend to thrive in urban environments and America is one of the leading countries with a growing freelancer economy. Some estimates say as much of ⅓ of the workforce is working in a gig capacity already. With the spread of high-speed internet this is allowing more and more people to work remotely with an independent contract. It’s attractive for businesses too as they can hire someone more specialized for the work they need to get done. By not having to only hire from a local pool of professionals they have many more choices of who they’d like to work with.

Challenges with the gig economy.

As many positives as there are associated with this growing trend, there are also challenges. For some workers it can be feast or famine as your next job or contract is dependent on you finding your next client or project. Of course, all industries go through cycles of growth and decline, this can be particularly difficult for those who gig. Some workers complain that there is a lack of work life balance. Then of course there is a lack of benefits, and retirement.

There is certainly a lot to consider when entering this new market. While for some professionals it can offer lucrative earnings and freedom, with others it can lead to challenges and insecurity. What do you think about cooks entering the gig economy?

References:
https://www.investopedia.com/terms/g/gig-economy.asp

https://www.ft.com/content/b5a2b122-a41b-11e5-8218-6b8ff73aae15

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26 Oct 2019

So many people fight the traffic and come home from work tired and hungry. You want to feed your family well but the idea of chopping and prepping a real meal for your family is daunting. Add hungry kids to the formula and it’s a bigger challenge. Decision time. Few, if any, good options.

Restaurants on a weeknight? Pack the family in the minivan, wait for your table with hungry tired kids. Then you’re presented with a menu & it’s hard to stick to healthy options. You leave after eating foods you’d be better off avoiding, and likely paid more than you planned on spending. The evening is done & that homework still needs done. Or else, a green slip is headed your way from the teacher.

You could opt for home delivery like pizza, which is always a crowd pleaser. But you can’t feed your family pizza 4 times a week. Now there are options like Uber Eats, Doordash or GrubHub to help. Those help fill a gap on a busy night but it’s far from a long term solution. You’re going to blow your budget on delivery fees and once again your feeding your family less than healthy options.

Prepared meals are the go-to for a lot of busy folks. Many grocery stores offer meal kits or premade options. Although they are slightly healthier than pizza, you’re likely to get burnt out quickly on the limited menu options week after week. Most stores offer 3-5 options for this, and even if they are healthy and budget friendly and easy to cook, you’re going to find yourself dying for a little variety on your plate.

Of course, there are meal kit delivery choices. This eliminates some work, with less grocery shopping and expanded menu choices. But they tend to be light on the leftovers and they don’t really free up your time. The menu might be decided, but you’re still the one chopping and cooking after a long day of work. Not to mention the pile of dishes waiting for you after dinner. They also don’t eliminate grocery shopping all together. You’re still going to be heading to the store every few days for staples like milk and fruit. And those subscriptions don’t manage themselves make sure to set an alarm on your phone to set your menu every week, and don’t forget about when the auto withdraw comes out of your bank account.

Cooked & frozen meal delivery services are an option. But even though you might be ordering your food based on beautifully plated pictures on a website, what you receive is going to look more like something from a cafeteria. Of course, it’s still chef prepared and that alone might be a big step up if you aren’t yourself a culinary master. Just don’t forget to budget for delivery fees here too. And the meals are shipped from afar in bulky boxes. Who knows when they were cooked?

Grocery delivery services like insta cart are good way to keep your fridge stocked with all the healthy options you want to have on hand. But they can’t give you the motivation to cook at the end of a long day.

Give our Genies a try. Schedule an in home cooking session with them. They will shop, cook & clean up after themselves. You are left to enjoy fresh home cooked meals – except you don’t have to do the cooking.

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Understanding USDA Beef Grades_CookinGenie_blog

29 Jul 2021

When you walk through the meat section at the grocery store, you will often find steaks labeled with a small shield in the right-hand corner, denoting a USDA grade and claiming the steak as prime, choice, or select. But what do these grades really mean? And how should they impact your decisions on what steak to buy, or not to buy?

The first thing to understand is that the USDA has two main objectives when looking at beef: inspection and grading. Inspection is required of all meats that are shipped across state lines, as mandated by the Meat Inspection Act of 1906. Inspection is a safety measure; it does not guarantee quality but simply ensures that the meat is safe for human consumption.

Grading, however, is different. A grade is an assurance of quality you can trust. Within 24 hours of the animal being slaughtered, expert USDA graders examine the meat and assign a grade on the basis of age, color, texture, firmness, and marbling.

Of these grading criteria, marbling, which is the intramuscular fat inside a piece of meat, is the easiest to identify—it’s the white lines that run through a piece of raw steak. Marbling equals tenderness and juiciness. As the steak cooks, the fat melts and makes the steak moist and tender. The more marbling, the higher quality the steak.

With all these criteria in mind, the USDA has eight grades it applies to beef: Prime, choice, select, standard, commercial, utility, cutter, and canner. The higher the grade, the more expensive the steak.

(Also ReadWhat Makes Bibimbap The Ultimate Korean Feast?)

Prime is the highest grade, this meat comes from younger animals, is rich in marbling, juicy, tender, and flavorful. But it is also expensive and can be hard to find.

Choice meat is of excellent quality, with solid marbling and flavor, it offers great value and is readily available. Choice steaks are good candidates for grilling, roasting, or searing.

Select meat is of solid quality and is very economical. Since select meats are a little tougher and drier, they are well suited for moist cooking techniques like stewing and braising.

Standard meat is cheap, tough, and of low quality. Sometimes you will see it as an ungraded store brand meat but typically it’s sold as ground meat or other processed products.

Utility, cutter, and canner meats are rarely ever used in foodservice and are typically used to make pet food and other canned products.

It’s also important to note that grading, unlike inspection, is voluntary and not required by law. So, if you go to a local butcher or farmer, their steak may not be graded, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s low quality. When shopping for these steaks, the easiest way to determine quality is to look for marbling.

Here at CookinGenie, we offer a wide range of delicious, creative steak dishes and strive to use butcher-fresh meat graded choice or better. Beneath every dish on the website, you will find a transparent list of ingredients so that you know it is quality you can trust. Browse the menu today to see what amazing steak-night dishes can be prepared in your own kitchen.

Sources: https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2013/01/28/whats-your-beef-prime-choice-or-select?page=1

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