Good Kitchen Practices
You may love being a slob. You may not even care about cleanliness, but if you’re taking food to a potluck, you might want to take a few steps towards sanitation if you’re set on bringing something homemade. However, there’s always the option of buying a nice and unique dish to save you the kitchen hassle.
I’m making this post because I realize that not everyone loves potlucks as much as I. Many people are afraid of what other people have cooked. They question the status of other peoples’ kitchens. The sanitary practices they follow and the kinds of ingredients they choose. While I know I’m not winning over the potluck-fearing people, I hope that some of you who stumble across this page find the tips useful and implement them when you prepare food for groups, making your dish safer for everyone involved.
I also know some of you will roll your eyes at me because you probably learned this in home economics class decades ago, but some of you were probably sleeping in class or paying attention to your shoelaces instead, as happens in school from time to time. Unlike school, there’s not going to be a quiz, but for the health and safety of all involved, give it a perusal.
- Wash Your Hands Regularly!
- Wash the counter tops, cutting boards and utensils you’ll be using with clean cloths.
- Got Hair? Wear a cap and/or long sleeves (for hairy arms) to prevent shedding into the food.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables, even thick skinned ones like avocado and cantaloupe. Bacteria can live on the outer skin, get onto the knife and get on the part you eat.
- Keep The Meat Solo. Don’t store raw meat with other products as juices can contaminate other food. Prepare meat away from other food, give it its own cutting board, and be sure that you wash your hands well after touching the raw meat.
- Watch for nuts, flours and fish. Some people are extremely sensitive to certain nuts, flours and fish. Even if you don’t use these products in your food, even the presence of them can affect people. While these allergies are a bit rare, make note of possible contamination just in case. And, as I say in Rules of Engagement, bring a list of ingredients so people can easily tell if there’s anything that may harm them.
- Get the temperature right. Know what temperature your meat needs to reach to be properly cooked. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part (to a depth of about 2 to 2 ½ inches) to make sure the temperature is right.
- Store Your Foods! Know how long you can store food before it will go bad (on average 1-2 days for raw meat and 3-5 days for fresh vegetables). If food needs refrigeration, don’t dawdle… be sure to get it home from the grocery store within an hour. After cooking, if you’re not taking the food to the potluck immediately, safely store the food in the refrigerator. Reheat it well when you get to the potluck.
Do you have something else to add? Leave a comment below.
Check out more tips on bringing food to potlucks in my Rules of Engagement.
FoodSafety.gov offers up a bunch of useful information about cooking times, temperatures and refrigeration. They also issued this handy pamphlet about cooking for groups that covers everything I talked about here and much, much more.