Kitchen hygiene and food safety are an essential part of any kitchen, whether you’re cooking in a five-star restaurant or in your own home.
Poor kitchen hygiene can result in a widespread population of germs, food poisoning, and even serious illnesses. So, it’s critical that you keep your kitchen clean, store food properly, and maintain your own personal hygiene.
However, while many of us think we have a good knowledge of food safety, many of us don’t really know the ins-and-outs of kitchen hygiene. Sure, we know to wash our hands and cook food all the way through, but do we know what temperature our fridge should be and how to reheat food effectively?
Here, we’ve created a beginner’s guide to food hygiene to help make your kitchen a safer place.
Wash your hands
This is one of the most obvious, and one of the most important, parts of kitchen hygiene. While all of us (we hope!) know the importance of washing our hands, there are some technical things to know about this basic task.
You should be washing your hands before and after cooking food, as well as after touching raw meat, pets, or going to the toilet. There are eleven stages of hand washing, which can be found here, and washing your hands should take around 20 seconds to ensure your hands are properly germ-free.
Cook food properly
Another important step to reduce the risk of food poisoning is to cook food all the way through and until it’s piping hot.
While some meats can be cooked less, such as beef and lamb, most meat will need to be cooked thoroughly before eating. Poultry, pork, offal, burgers, sausages, minced meat (including minced beef and lamb), and kebabs all need to be cooked through to the middle.
You can check whether food is cooked by cutting into the middle to check for pink meat and that the juices are running clear.
This post by NI Direct has more information on cooking food properly.
Store food safely
Storing food incorrectly is another source of contamination and there are multiple steps you can take to reduce this risk.
Make sure any leftovers are cooled down to room temperature within two hours and stored in a fridge that has a temperature of less than 5˚C. Store raw meat at the bottom of the fridge in a sealed container and ensure the fridge isn’t too full to allow air to continue to circulate.
It’s also essential to wash your fridge regularly with warm soapy water or disinfectant to keep it clean and hygienic.
When it comes to heating up leftovers, make sure that all cooked food is eaten within two days and that it’s heated thoroughly to 70˚C. It’s also key to check that it retains this heat for at least two minutes after heating.
This post by the NHS Live Well has some more key tips for storing food safely, including freezing and defrosting food.
Clean surfaces thoroughly
Make sure your kitchen surfaces, bins, and dishcloths/towels are clean to ensure your kitchen is safe.
Kitchen surfaces should be washed with warm soapy water or a disinfectant before and after cooking and when anything has spilled onto counters. It’s also vital that you thoroughly dry your surfaces after washing them, as any dampness or water can harbour surviving germs.
Bins should be washed at least every three to four days, and dishcloths/ towels should be washed after every use.
Cross-contamination is a key source of illness and germs, so it’s important to take steps to prevent it from happening.
We spoke to Kitchen Knives for some tips, who said: “Cooking utensils such as knives and chopping boards need to be washed between different food preparation to prevent food poisoning, especially between preparing raw meat and ready-to-eat food. It’s even better if you can have separate utensils full-stop, which really cuts down the chance of cross-contamination.”
Follow ‘use-by’ dates
Finally, many people ignore ‘use-by’ dates which can cause serious illness.
While ‘best before’ dates only indicate the quality of the food, ‘use-by’ dates actually indicate whether something is safe to eat, according to scientific calculations. By ignoring these, you can put yourself at risk of food poisoning.