Have a Happy, Healthy, Blessed Easter
With Easter here, you’re sure to attend at least one pot-luck meal with family and friends. These are wonderful times to catch up with loved ones, eat great food, and enjoy the beauty of Spring! Don’t let improperly prepared foods or poor food storage ruin your holiday weekend!
Follow these tips to help you stay safe, not just this Easter, but year-round!
Preparing foods can be a joy and a pain. It is the part of the process where you can congregate in the kitchen with loved ones and catch up, but also the part that must be planned and calculated just right to avoid overcooking, not salting the food too much, not cutting the vegetables right, measuring wrong, and much more!
To make matters a little more complicated, food safety should be followed during preparation as well. But, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some quick tips.
Avoid Cross Contamination
Cross contamination is dangerous because the foods you are cooking require different cook temperatures to ensure pathogens common to those foods are reduced or eliminated. For instance, chicken must be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill salmonella while green peppers only need to be cooked to 135 degrees Fahrenheit if they are going to be hot held.
If salmonella from the chicken meets the bell pepper because you have not cleaned the cutting board then you risk not killing it during the cooking process and may become sick.
- Prepare raw meats and raw vegetables separately
- If using the same cutting board then cut vegetables first, or wash between uses if meat has to be cut first
- Wash your hands properly between handling products
As mentioned in the last example, different food items must be cooked to different temperatures.
Check out this graphic for specific recommended cook times
Mind the Temperature Danger Zone
When you are preparing food, it is easy to get distracted or set everything out at the beginning of preparation, potentially leaving foods in what is called the temperature danger zone.
This zone refers to the temperatures where bacteria grow most readily. The USDA states this zone is between 40F and 140F (some sources consider 41F-135F). It is recommended that your foods not be left in this zone for more than 2 hours.
The USDA provides this info-graphic loaded with great information on the temperature danger zone and specifics on time-frames, cooking, reheating, and storing.
Serving food can be a pleasant and fulfilling experience. However, it is still important to remember specific food safety practices. For buffet style food service always use a clean plate.
Never place cooked food back on the same plate that held raw food previously. When possible, protect foods using sneeze guards. When serving hot foods try to keep them at 135F or above if possible and when serving cold foods, the temperature should remain at 40F or below.
If foods go out of this temperature for over 2 hours (1 hour if food was at 90F), do not keep leftovers.
This step can include the storage of food while serving or storage after mealtime is over. Storage is important for several reasons.
Proper storage prevents cross-contamination, the temperature danger zone must still be respected, buffet or pot luck style foods have special considerations, and hot and cold foods can be held out of temperature for limited time.
Cooling: Foods must be cooled from 135F-70F in 2 hours and 70-41 in the next 4 hours.
Refrigerator temperature: Your refrigerator should be at 40F or below.
Cross Contamination: When you store foods in the refrigerator make sure to place raw meat, poultry, and seafood in containers or sealed plastic bags to prevent their juices from dripping onto other foods. Raw juices often contain harmful bacteria.
Store eggs in their original carton and refrigerate as soon as possible.
Buffet style – it is recommended not to keep foods that have been served in pot luck or buffet style due to potential contamination of food during self-service.
Leftovers: use cooked leftovers within 4 days and reheat them to 165F.