Storing Foods Safely to Prevent Foodborne Illness

Ways to store food safely - cookinGenie blog

24 Sep 2021

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Storing Foods Safely to Prevent Foodborne Illness

When we think of food safety, we usually think about cooking foods properly to prevent getting anyone sick. However, storing foods properly is just as important to prevent foodborne illness. Just like the actual preparation of food, all it takes is a little common sense to make sure you’re storing food safely.

Keep foods cold

This may sound obvious, but there are some extra steps you can take to make sure your fridge is keeping food cold enough. Make sure you check the temperature gauge in the fridge regularly, about once a week. If it is consistently higher than 40⁰F, you should turn the temperature down or get your refrigerator serviced.

Also be sure to keep the fridge closed as often as possible. Leaving the door open for extended periods of time as you rummage through the shelves can expose the food inside to warm air, causing it to spoil quicker. Try not to keep the fridge too jam-packed with food. If there’s not enough space in between food, the cool air will have a harder time circulating and keeping everything cold.

Where you store matters

Certain foods, like eggs, dairy, and raw meat are more sensitive to temperatures than others. To protect those foods, store them further back in the fridge to keep them colder. The shelf in the door is the warmest part of the fridge, so you want to keep condiments, drinks, and other ingredients that are less sensitive to temperatures there.

It’s also important to keep different ingredients separated from one another in the fridge. Dairy and eggs should be stored away from raw fruits and vegetables so that bacteria from the eggs don’t contaminate the produce.

Another good rule to remember is always store raw meat in the bottom of the fridge and produce in the top. If you have raw chicken breasts stored over fresh lettuce, there’s a chance those chicken breasts drip into the lettuce and contaminate it. To be safe, always store meat on the bottom. And if you have multiple kinds of meat in your fridge, chicken should always be below beef, pork, fish, or other meats as chicken requires the most cooking to be safe.

Keep food away from chemicals

Not all foodborne illnesses come from biological hazards like bacteria or parasites. Some come from chemical contaminants. When storing dry goods in the pantry, they should always be kept far away from bleaches, detergents, cleaning supplies, or any other potentially harmful chemicals. Even storing food in the same cabinet as chemicals could lead to an accidental spill that contaminates the food, which can cause serious illness.

Don’t put steaming hot food in the fridge

It’s very common for people to throw a whole pot of something in the fridge if they don’t feel like putting it into containers. That’s fine as long as the food has cooled down first. If you take a steaming hot pot of soup and place it into the fridge to “cool down”, all you’re really doing is warming up the fridge. The heat and steam from the soup will circulate around the fridge and warm up all of the food inside, likely above the safe 40⁰F. Additionally, the soup itself probably won’t cool down very quickly either, leaving it at an unsafe temperature for an extended period of time.

Instead of putting the hot food directly in the fridge, let it cool down at room temperature first. If you pour hot foods into a long container with more surface area, they’ll cool down quicker. You can also try putting hot foods on an ice bath. To make an ice bath, fill your sink with ice and cold water. Then take the container of hot food and put it in the sink so that the water comes about three-quarters of the way up the container. Give the food a few stirs and after about 30 minutes or so, it should be cool enough to store in the fridge safely.

At CookinGenie, the chefs are experts in food safety and know how to ensure food is being handled safely all the way from shopping for the ingredients, storing them properly, and cooking them in the safest way possible.

Author – Jared Kent


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29 Oct 2019

A recent article released by NPR revealed a startling statistic. It published the results from a Survey by US Foods. That survey interviewed 500 food delivery drivers and 1500 food delivery customers. The results were disappointing to say the least. First revealing that 54% of those drivers found themselves tempted by the smell of a customer’s food. Additionally, nearly half of that 54% admitted to sampling the very food they were tasked with delivering. Not only is this a huge breach of trust, but it also raises issue of sanitization. The hands touching your food have been exchanging money with other patrons, getting in and out of their car, possibly even smoking. Those are the hands now rifling through the French fries you bought and paid for.

Even more unfortunately, this is a best-case scenario. We won’t even reference the many articles of vindictive drivers who tampered with food in retaliation of poor tips. You will not have to search hard to find plenty of stories of body parts and bodily fluids mixed together and even live streamed on Facebook before the food was delivered. Hardly appetizing you say? We agree.

Last year TheTakeout.com ran an article about a loophole in the Uber Eats Delivery Service policy. Basically, it stated that if the driver makes an attempt to contact the person who ordered the food but isn’t able to reach them, they can keep the food. According to a few posts from people claiming to be Uber drivers this was an easy way to score a free meal.

Uber is stuck between a rock and a hard place on this one. Obvious acts of fraud or theft will result in termination from the company. But in the technical age of dropped calls and dead cell phone batteries it’s not hard to imagine a real failure to connect. As much as we’d all like to believe the best about everyone, the evidence clearly points to the faults of this system.

Food safety issues will always be a problem if the food you are eating wasn’t prepared in your own kitchen. The more steps we place between where our food was cooked and when we eat it, the more chances there are for human failure, contamination or theft. For the safest dining experience, eat food that’s been prepared in your own kitchen by someone you trust. CookinGenie does exactly that. We send our Genies to cook in your own kitchen.

References:
https://www.npr.org/2019/07/30/746600105/1-in-4-food-delivery-drivers-admit-to-eating-your-food
https://thetakeout.com/ubereats-drivers-loophole-steal-eat-food-1830879242

https://www.ibtimes.com/food-delivery-driver-dipped-his-testicles-customers-salsa-2769495

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

24 Sep 2021

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

 

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How to Cook Meat Safely - CookinGenie blog

28 Sep 2021

There are many foods that can cause illness when handled incorrectly, but one of the most common instances of serious foodborne illness comes from the undercooking or mishandling of meat. Raw meat is often full of fecal matter from the animal, which can contain a host of bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens. Because of this, it is crucial to handle raw meat carefully and cook it to a safe temperature to kill as many pathogens as possible. If not, an undercooked piece of meat can easily get someone sick.

While this may sound simple, there are some intricacies to cooking meat safely, and not all meats are safe to eat at the same temperature. Here are some of the key things to remember when cooking meat and how some of the most popular meats need to be cooked in order to be safe to serve.

Keep raw meats separate from other foods—including other meats

It’s common sense that the juices from raw meat should stay away from fresh produce but it’s also good practice to keep raw meat away from other raw meat. As you’ll see with the minimum required internal temperatures, not all meats are safe at the same time. Chicken, for example, needs to be cooked more than steak. So, if you get the juices from raw chicken over your steak, the steak may be cooked all the way through, but the residual juice from the chicken may not be.

Also be sure to use separate cutting boards and utensils for different kinds of meat, wash your hands after handling raw meat, and disinfect any surfaces the meat may have come into contact with.

Minimum required internal temperatures

Poultry, like chicken and turkey requires the most cooking, while pork, beef, lamb, and seafood requires less. Note that ground meat of any kind requires more cooking than a whole piece of the same meat. This is because ground meat, with an increased surface area and the potential to come from more than one individual animal, has more exposure to bacteria. To take the temperature of a protein, insert a clean, sanitized thermometer into the thickest part of the meat and wait for the thermometer to read a temperature. For many meats, the meat needs to hold that temperature for a given period of time before it’s considered safe.

Also note that after you remove your meat from the heat, it will continue to cook for several more minutes in a process known as carry-over cooking, which will raise the internal temperature 5-10⁰F, so if your meat is a couple degrees under the minimum required internal temperature when you measure it, it’ll be safe to serve by the time you eat it.

The following are the minimum required internal temperatures for different proteins.

Poultry—Including whole or ground chicken, turkey, or duck: 165⁰F for at least 15 seconds

This also includes any stuffing inside of a bird (think thanksgiving) as well as any casseroles, stuffed pastas, or stuffed chicken breasts. When temping whole birds, make sure to insert the thermometer underneath the thigh, which is the thickest part of the bird.

Ground meat—Including beef, pork, lamb, veal, and ground seafood: 155⁰F for 15 seconds

Note that a medium burger is 140-145⁰F, and a well-done burger is 160⁰F.Eating a burger less than well-done could increase your chances of getting sick, which is why restaurants have the note at the bottom of their menus denoting the increased risk of foodborne illness from consuming undercooked meat.

Injected meat/brined meat—Including brined hams and roasts injected with flavor: 155⁰F for 15 seconds

Eggs that are meant to be held hot: 155⁰F for 15 seconds
Eggs that are to be served immediately: 145⁰F for 15 seconds

Chops/steaks of red meat—Including beef, lamb, veal, and pork: 145⁰F for 15 seconds

All of these meats will be a little pink at this temperature, but they’re safe to eat. A medium-rare steak is between 130-135⁰F, so there is a higher risk associated with eating steak under medium.

Whole roasts of pork, beef, veal, or lamb: 155⁰ for 4 minutes

Make sure to insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the roast. Because roasts are much bigger, the temperature needs to hold much longer to ensure it’s cooked through.

Whole seafood—Including whitefish, shellfish, and crustaceans: 145⁰F for 15 seconds

This applies to whole pieces of fish and shellfish/crustaceans such as shrimp, crab, and lobster. With bivalves such as mussels or clams, there is no need to measure temperature, they are safe when the shells open.

The bottom line

Overall, cooking meat to safe temperatures is a very simple, but very important task in the kitchen. Having a digital thermometer makes everything easier. If you’re unsure of how the meat needs to be cooked, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and slightly overcook a piece of meat than to get someone sick. When you book a chef from CookinGenie, you can trust that they’ll cook your meat so that it’s not only safe to eat, but also delicious.

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