Food Safety: Do You Need a Refresher?

Can you believe it’s almost October? Pumpkin spice season is now in full swing and it won’t be long before we’ll have gorgeous crisp leaves underfoot. And with Food Safety Education Month wrapping up, we wanted to be sure to dedicate a post to this topic that is always top of mind at Honest to Goodness.

As personal chefs, we take food safety very seriously. Each of our chefs holds a current State of Washington Food Workers Card, a certification we renew every two years by taking an exam from the Department of Health. This ensures we’re always up to date on proper cooking temperatures, food storage practices, and sanitation.

Most home chefs, however, probably absorbed their food safety knowledge in more of a “learn as you go” way, with parents and grandparents imparting many of the basics. While there’s nothing wrong with learning from family (what would we do without Grandma’s famous pie crust recipe?) knowledge of food safety has advanced a lot in recent years, so home chefs may have gaps in their knowledge.

Not only that, experts believe that modern food processing and distribution can lead to dangers in our food chain that weren’t a problem a generation ago. We’ve all heard about food scares in recent years, whether it’s E. coli contaminated lettuce or salmonella contaminated eggs. With food processing operations and becoming larger and larger, these kinds of massive recalls have become more common.

So, what does a home cook need to know about keeping their family safe? Well, according to the CDC, it comes down to four easy steps: clean, separate, cook and chill. Sounds pretty simple, right? Taking these steps can go a long way in protecting your family from food poisoning. Here are the CDC guidelines broken down:

  1. Clean: Wash your hands and surfaces often:
    • Germs that cause food poisoning can survive in many places and spread around your kitchen
    • Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before, during, and after preparing food and before eating.
    • Wash your utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water. Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.
  2. Separate: Don’t cross contaminate:
    • Raw meat, poultry, seafood and eggs can spread germs to ready-to-eat foods—unless you keep them separate.
    • Use separate cutting boards and plates for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. When grocery shopping, keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from other foods.
    • Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods in the fridge.
  3. Cook: To the right temperature:
    • Food is safely cooked when the internal temperature gets high enough to kill germs that can make you sick. The only way to tell if food is safely cooked is to use a food thermometer.You can’t tell if food is safely cooked by checking its color and texture.
    • Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature. Check this chart for a detailed list of foods and temperatures.
      • 145°F for whole cuts of beef, pork, veal, and lamb (then allow the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating)
      • 160°F for ground meats, such as beef and pork
      • 165°F for all poultry, including ground chicken and turkey
      • 165°F for leftovers and casseroles
      • 145°F for fresh ham (raw)
      • 145°F for fin fish or cook until flesh is opaque4.
  4. Chill: Refrigerate Promptly:
    • Keep your refrigerator at 40°F or below and know when to throw food out.
    • Refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours. (If outdoor temperature is above 90°F, refrigerate within 1 hour.)
    • Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Never thaw foods on the counter, because bacteria multiply quickly in the parts of the food that reach room temperature.

We hope these guidelines are helpful. There is nothing more important than our health and the health of our loved ones! In time, these practices become second nature, allowing us to focus on the fun and creativity of the cooking process. And of course, the joy of eating! Bon Appetit!