Food Prepping: Think Simple, Safe, Sanitary

We eat every day to maintain health and wellness, to feed the mind and body so they perform as required and to satisfy to soul with various tastes, textures and smells. But before we eat, we must prepare ingredients, a task that requires care or we risk contracting a variety of illnesses.

Food preparation is a major responsibility in the chain of consumption; here are 10 ways to make it safer:

  • Know your food supplier and sources: Where does your food come from? If you shop a local grocer or the neighborhood farmer’s market, do you talk to the suppliers and ask them about their products? Can the suppliers trace the production chain for their goods, assuring the healthiest and safest food? If you shop a chain grocery store, research their buying practices and read labels. Find out where vegetables are grown, whether their seafood supply is sustainable and which meats have no antibiotics.
  • The state of your kitchen: Keep your knives clean and well-sharpened. Clean your sinks, dish drainage racks and dishwashers regularly with a two-to-one ratio mix of vinegar and baking soda (this mixture is safe for all dishwashers; the common use of bleach in a dishwasher is not recommended for those with a stainless-steel interior). Check your baking sheets, pots and pans for food buildup and clean by heating them with water and a mix of equal parts white vinegar and baking soda. After two to three minutes, remove the hot pans and simmering liquid from the stove, let it cool slightly and the buildup should come off easily.
  • Cross-contamination cessation: Have at least two cutting boards in the kitchen: one for meat, poultry and seafood and one for fruits and vegetables. Plastic cutting boards are easier to sanitize, but constant use results in more nicks and grooves in the boards, where bacteria hide. Wood is harder to clean, but resists those deep scratches better than plastic.
  • Wash up: Use hot, soapy water on your hands, utensils, cutting boards and counter surfaces, before and after food contact.
  • Take the chill out: Defrost meats, seafood and poultry correctly, using the refrigerator or a container of cold water, rather than leaving products on the kitchen counter. Counter top thawing leads to uneven thawing, which breeds bacteria.
  • Looks cooked, but check it: Use a food thermometer to check for doneness. Cooking time is not an indicator, nor are the pop-up devices often included in meat and poultry products.
  • Pack leftovers promptly: Put leftovers away within two hours of use. If a refrigerator or freezer is unavailable, use a portable cooler and ice packs.
  • Less prep is more: Complicated recipes and elaborate sauces with many ingredients are fine for a special occasion. But the more prep required, the more chances exist for contamination. Eat healthy foods, simply made and presented as often as possible.
  • Food storage for safety: Store meats, fish and seafood on the lowest shelf, so blood or juices do not drip on other foods. Do not use raw meat marinade as a dip or sauce for the cooked meat, unless you boiled first. Check your refrigerator and freezer temperatures with a thermometer; a refrigerator reading no higher than 41 degrees F. and a freezer reading of 0 degrees F. are safe.
  • A guide for outdoor grilling: Before you use the grill, clean the grates with a wire brush and the vinegar and baking soda solution used for the pots and pans, or a commercial grill cleaner. Spray the grates lightly with oil to prevent food from sticking. Do not use the same platter for both raw and cooked meats, unless you wash it.