Keeping a kitchen clean can be a challenge, but it is essential to practicing good food safety and making sure your business is compliant with food handling standards and regulations. In order to promote the proper habits and routines, it’s important to identify any possible or common errors people may make which can led to contaminated food and poor performance on a health inspection.
Sometimes even simple mistakes can have serious consequences, particularly when handling food which can potentially develop and pass on foodborne illnesses and bacteria. In Canada, there has been on average 1.6 million illnesses which resulted from food-borne contamination, and practicing good food preparation management can help spare your restaurant from losing customers and earning a bad reputation. If you want to learn more about food handling, here are some common mistakes you should know about.
Thawing or Marinating Food on the Counter
Illness-causing bacteria can grow in perishable foods within two hours unless they are refrigerated, and that time is even shorter during hot weather. The temperature of a kitchen can be difficult to control, but leaving unmonitored food on the counter for an extended period of time significantly increases the risk of it becoming susceptible to bacterial growth.
Leaving food out to thaw or marinate can put it in danger of developing harmful germs and bacteria. Instead of risking contamination, make sure you follow the guidelines from your food handling courses and put the food in its proper containers to refrigerate at a recommended temperature. One of the safest ways to thaw food outside of refrigeration is to microwave it immediately before cooking, which begins the cooking process and bypasses the warm temperatures which encourage bacterial growth.
Food Handling Courses Warn of Undercooking Meat, Poultry or Seafood
In culinary management programs, there is a concept known as the temperature danger zone (TDZ), which is between 4 and 60 degrees Celsius (40 and 140 Fahrenheit). This means that food which is improperly cooked between these temperatures is at risk of contamination.
There are certain rules when cooking raw meat and poultry, which require a minimum internal temperature to be reached to ensure that the meat is at a safe temperature. Different kinds of meat require different temperatures, especially according to how a customer wants it cooked, but a general rule of thumb is that it must reach an internal temperature of at least 74 degrees Celsius (165 Fahrenheit). Using the tools in your kitchen such as a food thermometer can give you an accurate reading of your food’s internal temperature and can help prevent serving or eating undercooked meat.
Food Safety is Compromised by Washing Meat or Poultry
While washing foods like vegetables or fruits before cooking them is a good idea, this kind of sanitation should not be applied to meat or poultry. Washing foods that can incubate bacteria can potentially spread to the area around the sink as well as counters and even onto the chef themselves. This is known as cross contamination, and it can compromise the safety of not only the present meal being prepared, but of the entire kitchen.
If you’re worried about contamination in your meat or poultry, the best way to guarantee that it is safe to eat is not to wash it but to cook it at the proper temperature. This kills any pathogens or bacteria and limits areas of cross contamination to the areas the meat touches, rather than risking the safety of your entire kitchen.