Everyone knows it’s important to wash your hands while preparing food, but there are a lot of mistakes you might be making without knowing it. Expert Sharon Franke, Kitchen Appliance and Technology Lab Director, Good Housekeeping Research Institute weighs in with important advice every cook should know.Adding vinegar or lemon juice to your marinade could make your meat safer, according to research. “Acidic marinades tend to slow the growth of bacteria on meat,” says Melvin Hunt, PhD, a professor of food science at Kansas State University. Just soak properly: Marinate in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Poultry and cubed meats shouldn’t be marinated for more than two days, but it’s okay to leave beef, pork, and lamb in the mixture for five days.
1. You rinse off your poultry before cooking
You often see chicken recalls because of salmonella, so you need to be especially careful about cross-contamination when you’re handling raw poultry. Don’t rinse your poultry because that can spread bacteria in your sink or faucet. After you get your chicken cooking be sure you wash your hands, sink and all exposed surfaces with hot soapy water. And never use the same cutting board for your meat and raw vegetables (for example, don’t do what the picture above is doing).
2. You don’t refrigerate your produce after you cut it
Once you chop up any fruit or vegetable, it speeds up the spoiling process. So this means that if you cut up a pineapple, you need to keep it in the refrigerator or if you bring a half watermelon home from a farm stand you should keep it on ice.
3. You aren’t freezing food the right way
Frozen food should be tightly double wrapped to ensure that it doesn’t deteriorate and that ice crystals don’t ruin the texture and taste. When you freeze food in a container, leave a little extra room for the food to expand. Also, make sure your freezer is set on zero degrees or lower for the longest food preservation.
4. You aren’t using a food thermometer
A good cook can tell when meat is done by touch, sight or smell, but that doesn’t mean it is safe to eat. You should always check your meat against the USDA’s recommended temperatures with a digital instant read thermometer (not a meat or analogue thermometer). And always remember to wash your thermometer each time you take a temperature read.
5. You let your buffet food sit out for hours
Next time you set up a buffet or dinner party, keep in mind that nothing should sit out for more than 2 hours. Serve smaller bowls of food and rotate them from the refrigerator. When you bring out new food to replenish your dishes, beware of putting fresh cold food on top of the old, possibly bacteria laden food.