Just like everyone else, I always thought home cooking is the cleaner way to go, and the only evil and unclean food out there is what you grab on the street outside of the safe walls of your home.
It was much later on that I learned that you can give your family food poisoning or even much worse forms of disease through home cooking.
As I started my business as a cake baker/decorator, my interest in the topic rose: I was not going to allow any food contamination to result from my home baking. That’s why I started researching on the topic, most of all because I had no access to actual culinary education and had to learn it all by myself.
So from my research I was able to put together a standard that I use in my home kitchen, be it for my cake business customers or even for my family.. here are my rules:
- The clean cook:
Before you embark on your culinary journey, you have to make sure of a few things:
1- clean hands washed with disinfectant soap. Repeat this in between every step of the cooking
2- if you have long hair you have to put it together in a ponytail. For extra safety and for shorter hair you can put it under a cap.
3- wipe your clothes clean with an adhesive clothes roller to avoid and lost hair or any other sort of dust/debris stuck on your clothing to slip into the food
4- wipe the counter even if you won’t be putting things directly onto it
5- grab a fresh, clean towel to use for wiping hands with every cooking session
6- if you have nail polish on, remove it. Nail polish is a no no as it chips and slips into the food.
If you just had an expensive manicure, you might consider using gloves at that point; many TV chefs do.
7- if you are wearing any rings remove them all. As per US standard, a professional chef is only allowed to wear their wedding band while cooking, so there’s little reason why a home cook should not stick to the standard.
- The clean kitchen:
1- as mentioned before, the counter has to be clean even if none of the food is going to touch it directly.
2- have different cutting boards for different food items:
– a cutting board for meats & chicken
– a cutting board for vegetables
– a cutting board for fish
– a multi-purpose cutting board for finished meals, bread, herbs, etc.
never use the same board for two different things, especially the meat & chicken board has to be a designated board for just that.
If you will only have one board to invest in, then do get one for meats and use it only as such.
3- make sure all utensils, bowls and pots are clean and fresh for use. If you have a dishwasher do take a second look into the washed items before use: sometimes it just doesn’t clean too well and the items have to be hand-washed for maximum safety.
4- when buying utensils, avoid utensils where each part detaches from the other. It creates room for water and food residue to stay inside the cavities causing the growth of bacteria and molds.
- The clean food items:
- When grocery shopping:
– Chicken and meat should not come in direct contact with vegetables and fruits.
– Canned food items should not have any dents into the can as it affects the quality of the canning juices.
– expiry dates should be checked at all times, and mostly when there’s an offer.
– handpick every fruit and vegetable. Items with soft spots and begins of molding should be avoided. Soil on the other hand is acceptable and will wash off easily.
- At home:
– cut each item on its designated, clean cutting board with a designated knife for each time.
– if using a canned product, wash thoroughly under cool running water. This eliminates the additional preservatives of the canning juices as well as removes the excess salt, giving better control of how much salt goes into a recipe.
In cases of canned beans specifically, it also produces white froth which is what would have come out and eliminated if you were cooking the beans from scratch: this froth when not removed is what causes stomach aches and gases when consuming the beans.
– veggies and fruits are to be washed with water and vinegar – avoid dish soap. (I always had the feeling dish soap cleans the vegetables better, but an acquaintance taught me how dangerous that can be and I stopped since)
– when making chicken or meat that is meant to be drenched in flour, breadcrumbs, tempura or any coating mixture, you cannot reuse the leftover mix! You run the risk of contaminating more meals if any part of the meat used has salmonella or the like.
– the same rule applies for marinade: if you have left over marinade – especially for chicken- just throw it away. You cannot reuse that.
– to avoid cross-contamination, do not use the same knife on both chicken or meat and vegetables. Otherwise you are taking any potential bacteria and spreading it everywhere else. This also applies to all other utensils
– speaking of utensils, the small spoon you are tasting with goes straight into the sink and is never to be dug back into the food. Saliva is definite to ruin any food that’s cooking, apart from being disgusting to the person who will end up eating too.
– when you have dairy or raw meat products keep them chilled until it’s time to use them/ bring them to room temperature if necessary. Keeping such items outside for the entire time will ruin them and poison you.
– to avoid tons of scraps, simply designate one bowl for “waste”. Throw in everything and at the end of your cooking session throw all the contents away at once.
Happy Cooking to all J