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Kitchen Safety Tips

Experience is the best teacher except when it comes to safety 
in the kitchen. A few tips will make your kitchen a safer place.


Ground meat should reach a minimal internal temperature of
. Ground poultry should reach 165 degrees; beef and lamb should reach 145; pork should be at 160 and poultry at 170. Many people prefer lower temperatures or rarer meats, but these should be avoided when there are risk factors such as age or illness.

Once foods have been cooked, they should be kept in a refrigerator below 40 or in a heated container above 140.  Perishable foods should remain between these temperatures
to 139) for no more than two hours. Bacteria can readily grow between these temperatures. Toxins will also be produced.

Buy a thermometer to test your refrigerator and freezer. The refrigerator should be kept between 35 to 40. The freezer should be at 0 or lower. Bacteria present in foods will not be killed at 0 but will be prevented from growing. Bacteria present in foods kept at 40 or lower will have less chance to multiply.

Cook stuffing in a separate pan instead of cooking in a poultry cavity—or check the internal temperature of the stuffing. It should be at 165 .


Cleanliness to Prevent Illness
Always wash your hands in warm water and anti-bacterial soap before handling food. Look for a natural Tea tree soap or soaps that are scented like lemon or tomato from Williams Sonoma.

Food-borne illnesses can be prevented. By washing your hands and all food preparation surfaces and utensils, you will lower your risk. By rinsing any surfaces which have been in contact with raw eggs, meat and poultry with a bleach water solution, you take cleanliness and safety a step further.

Your hands can spread food-borne bacteria to the refrigerator, door handles, hot and cold sink faucets, dishcloths, countertops, stove knobs, appliances, etc. This is less likely if you wash your hands after handling raw meats and other uncooked foods.

Thoroughly wash all the kitchen utensils and equipment after preparing raw foods.

Disinfect cutting boards after preparing meat on them. Mix three tablespoons of bleach to one quart of water and keep the surface wet for at least two minutes. Rinse well. Bleach breaks down into mostly salt and water so it won't leave an active residue on the surface or flavor food. Oil the board when dry to protect the wood. Keep bleach solution in a marked spray bottle.

Use white cotton dish clothes instead of sponges, which harbor bacteria. Williams Sonoma has small cotton dish clothes which can be used easily and washed with bleach in your washing machine. Car detail rags also work very well. Wash the rags in soap and bleach after each use. Kitchen dish brushes can be run through the dishwasher at least once a day.

If you do fall ill with salmonella due to unsafe handling of food, see your doctor. Food-borne illness is often mistaken for the flu. In some cases it can be fatal. Symptoms will appear anywhere from 30 minutes to two weeks after an individual has come in contact with the bacteria. Sudden symptoms in a number of individuals who all ate the same food is a good indication that they have food poisoning. All food-borne illness should be reported to your doctor and local health department.  


To prevent burns, always use pot holders or gloves. Never use gloves which have wet food spills on them, as the moisture will create a steam burn when you touch a hot surface. If you do burn yourself, immediately apply cool water to the area. This will help to remove the heat and prevent a severe burn. The Baker's Catalogue® carries the best mitts and pot holders made from thick washable terry cloth.  

Removing Pesticides

Use the fruit and vegetable wash from the Walnut Acres catalog to remove dirt, chemicals and insecticides. This catalog also carries another product to wash away E. coli and salmonella from fruits and vegetables. 1-800-433-3998 (Item 83658 and 83606)  


Purchase a Flamestop fire extinguisher. Sprinkle a grease fire with baking soda or salt.  


Keep your freezer at 0
to protect frozen foods from contamination. At 10 harmful bacteria and enzymes responsible for spoilage are reactivated.

Place a bag of ice cubes in your freezer when you leave for vacation, if the ice has melted and re-frozen, you will know there was a loss of power for a substantial amount of time.

Once a food has been frozen and thawed it should not be refrozen as it will adversely affect the quality of the food.

When freezing cooked foods, about three weeks is the maximum storage time.

Test your freezer and set for 0 . If it is any cooler your frozen foods will suffer from freezer burn.

Wrap all frozen foods tightly to avoid air pockets which can allow ice crystals to form.

Keep your freezer two-thirds full and avoid over filling which could cause the foods to take longer to freeze and may cause them to spoil.



Keep your refrigerator temperature at 40 F or below. Store protein-rich foods in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Milk will store well between 34 and 38 F.

Keep raw meat and poultry properly wrapped and placed in the bottom of your refrigerator in a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass dish to collect juices. Always thaw frozen meats in the refrigerator in the same way. Meats should be cooked immediately after thawing, so start thawing a day ahead.

When the power goes out, food will remain chilled for up to six hours so long as you don't open the refrigerator door. Frozen foods will last 1-2 days, depending on how full the freezer is.

Refrigerate all foods you will be taking on a picnic. Place the food in sealed containers. To pre-cool the cooler, simply fill with ice. An ice pack or ice should also be used to keep food cold.

Keep raw fish in the refrigerator only if you intend to use it that day or the next. Fish is best used the day it is purchased. If fish is to be kept any longer it should be wrapped in freezer paper and sealed in foil. Thaw fish in refrigerator overnight and use it the next day. Marinate seafood in the refrigerator. Clean up spills immediately.

To keep vegetables fresh use special Evert-Fresh bags and a food saver box to eliminate excess humidity. These boxes are available through Walnut Acres. Evert-Fresh bags are available through Dixie USA.



Avoid storing food in cabinets which are under the sink or have water, or drain and heating pipes passing through them. These attract insects and rodents through openings that are difficult to seal.

The best way to store foods is in plastic storage containers with tight-sealing lids. The food will keep longer when sealed.

Wash the tops of cans with soap and water before opening if you see they are not clean.  


To prevent spattering when frying, dry wet food thoroughly before adding it to hot oil. Seasoned oils with herbs should be refrigerated to prevent spoilage. Pine nuts and other high-fat nuts and seeds should be refrigerated or kept in the freezer to prevent the oils from turning rancid.  

Sink Safety

Knives or appliance blades left in soapy water can be dangerous. Wash after use for the safest approach.  

Dishwasher Safety

Place dishwasher safe knives point side down in the dishwasher. Store knives in a slotted block of wood specifically designed for knife storage, as contact with other kitchen tools will dull their edges. Remember to store out of reach of children.


Sharp Edges

Remove the entire lid when opening a metal can, then put lid inside the empty can before disposing of it. Never put broken glass in your plastic kitchen garbage. Serious cuts on your legs can be avoided by wrapping glass in paper bags and dispose directly in the outside garbage can.  


Cooking on the Stove Top

Keep pot handles turned away from the front of the stove.
Uncover pots by lifting the side of the lid away from you. Turn burners off before pan is removed.

Keep vent fan free of grease by placing it in the dishwasher for two cycles if needed. Prevents grease fires. Keep baking soda or a fire extinguisher handy for flare-ups.  

Cooking in the Oven

Always use dry oven mitts which are lined and fit well. Never use a wet dish rag or a damp cloth, as the heat will turn the moisture into burning steam.

Avoid leaning too near the oven as you open it, especially when cooking at high temperatures. Never pour wines over food during the cooking process in the oven, when you close the door the fumes can create a large explosion. I did this once!

Adjust oven racks before you turn on the oven. Never adjust an oven rack while there is a casserole or tray of food on it.

Keep your oven clean. It is a good idea to clean your oven before the holiday baking season. If you are planning to cook pies that you know may overflow, place a pan lined with aluminum foil under the pan or buy a special pie protector plate to set the pan on. This will save you many hours of cleaning.

Use eye protection, wear gloves and keep windows and doors open while spraying oven cleaner, then let set overnight. The liquid is very acidic and can burn your skin. Wipe gloves so the cleaner doesn't run onto your arms. Wipe door first, then clean inside. Rinse with a solution of vinegar and water for a clean-smelling oven. Heat 10 minutes before using again.

Avoid cooking in aluminum foil if you are using acidic ingredients such as tomato sauce. A chemical reaction will also occur when cooking tomatoes in aluminum pans. The tomatoes may take on a brownish tinge and a metallic flavor as the acid in the tomatoes reacts with the metal.  


Protecting your Hands

Use only dry oven mitts or pot holders when handling hot pans.  Moist mitts will create steam and transfer heat. Watch your hand as it enters the oven to remove items close to the top of oven. The heating element can set oven mitts on fire and if you are using a small oven pot holder you can also burn your hands or arms.

Dry hands before plugging in appliances. Unplug electric mixer before removing beaters.

Use antibacterial soap for your hands and Lysol kitchen cleaner for surfaces. A solution of 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon of water may be made for big cleanups or place the mixture in spray bottles to spray and clean the counter.


Protecting your Back

Wipe up spills on the floor immediately to prevent slipping and falling on the hard kitchen floor.  

Protecting your Skin

Wear short sleeves when cooking on gas stove tops so that the fabric does not catch fire or snag on a pot handle.

Keep children away from the stove and never let them make their own gelatin, the boiling water can cause serious burns. If you have small children, never leave hot liquids close to the edge of the counter where little hands can reach them. Always be aware when children are in the kitchen and keep them occupied with crayons or toys away from the stove.  

Food Storage

To prevent spoilage, store foods in plastic storage containers. Look for bags especially made for fresh fruits and vegetables and your produce will last weeks longer. Evert-Fresh bags from Dixie USA, Inc. will help keep foods fresh. Never use a container which held raw meats before you have washed it thoroughly in hot soapy water. Preferably use a dishwasher.


Outdoor Cooking

When barbecuing, use only certified starters for outdoor grilling.  Keep a water-filled sprayer bottle handy for minor flare-ups.  Use long-handled barbecue tools. Never leave the grill unattended and wear an apron to prevent grease stains.

Use special mitts and long tools so you don't singe the hair on your arms or burn your skin.

Chill foods you are taking to a picnic before storing them in a cooler. Use enough ice to keep foods at 40 F. Keep cold drinks in a separate cooler to avoid opening and closing the one storing the food.  

Safety at the Grocery Store

Pick up perishables after you have shopped for all the non-perishable items. Perishables should be home and back in a refrigerator within 30 minutes.

Place meats, fish and poultry in plastic bags – keep them in the lower part of your shopping cart – so meat juices will not drip on other groceries. Bag meats in butcher paper in a plastic bag to keep cold. Frozen foods can also be placed in the same bag as long as the meats have been wrapped in plastic. This will keep everything cold until you arrive home. Fish should be kept next to the frozen foods. Make a habit of picking up a package of frozen peas and placing them in the bag with fresh fish. When you arrive home, place fish in the coldest part of the refrigerator in a plastic bag set on a frozen ice pack.

Grouping cold items will also help you when you arrive home and try to find all the refrigerated and frozen items.
If you shop for these items last and place them in one part of your cart, they will be easier to bag together and put away first.

Shop at a grocery store close to your home when you are purchasing meats and dairy products. Keep in the coldest part of your car on the way home.

Check expiration dates on milk, eggs and meat products. Pick the freshest items when you have a choice between two expiration dates.

Don't leave your purse in the cart while you walk around the corner to pick up an item.

When selecting fish, look for fish with clear eyes that bulge a little. Whole fish and fillets should have a firm and shiny flesh.  There should be no darkening around the edges of the fish or brown or yellow discoloration. The fish should smell fresh and not fishy.  

General Food Safety Tips

Bacon, lunch meats and hot dogs will begin to spoil within one week of opening.

Eat or freeze refrigerated leftovers within four days.

Use eggs within two weeks and check for cracked eggs before you buy them. Store in the refrigerator, at 40 . Always wash your hands after handling and breaking open eggs to prevent the spread of salmonella. Use an egg separator instead of using the shells to separate the yolk and egg white for an even more cautious approach. Salmonella in eggs is a risk to the elderly, very young, those with medical problems and pregnant women.  Raw eggs should never be served to these individuals and should be avoided at other times even though less than 1 percent of eggs have been found to harbor salmonella. It is better to be safe than sorry. Most problems occur in the food industry and not at home.

Raw egg whites are less likely to carry and support bacterial growth than egg yolks, which are a better medium for bacteria and should always be cooked or mixed with an acid such as fresh lemon juice. A fresh egg will fall to the base of a pan filled with water. If the egg turns on its side or stands upright it is still fine. A very old egg will float and should be discarded. To prevent eggs from spoiling, always refrigerate and use within two weeks.

Never put cooked foods on a plate that held raw foods! In other words, don't use the same plate to bring cooked meat back inside from the barbeque unless you wash it first.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold to avoid the invisible bacteria that grow in lukewarm foods.

To ensure safe food handling prepare your dishes using the very freshest food possible. Cook raw foods thoroughly before eating and store ready-to-eat and cooked foods in different containers separate from raw food to prevent the spread of bacteria from one to the other.



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