Mrs. C's Party Tips
It's A Party
Many cooks spoil the broth especially if they don't wash their hands. Everyone wants to help — great! Wash hands before, during and after food preparation.
When cooking for others — think Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill.
The BBQ Party
Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator or microwave, not on the countertop or outside during the party. Meat can also be thawed in its original wrap (sealed packaging) by immersing it in cold water that is changed every 30 minutes.
Keep your grill and BBQ utensils clean. Preheat the grill and begin cooking food when it is hot.
Marinate foods in the refrigerator. Never reuse marinade that has come into contact with raw product, unless it is has been brought to a full, rolling boil for at least one minute. If you want to use marinade as a basting or dipping sauce, plan ahead and reserve a portion before adding the marinade to the raw food.
Do not put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat. Use a second, clean platter for the cooked food. If you have only one platter, wash it in hot soapy water before using it for cooked foods.
Cook to proper temperatures. Use a digital food thermometer to test the doneness of meat and poultry. Download the handy Cooking Temperature Chart for posting in your kitchen. While meat is waiting to be cooked, keep it cool in the refrigerator or in a cooler with ice packs.
If you have too much meat, keep refrigerated and cook the next day, or cook all the meat during the party, and refrigerate or freeze the cooked leftovers.
After the bash, cover leftovers and refrigerate immediately. Throw out perishable foods (i.e., meat, dairy foods, salads and dressings) if they have been sitting out for more then two hours (or one hour if left in the sun or heat).
It's A Potluck
Think food safety when cooking for friends. If cooking something for a potluck later in the day — after cooking, cover, cool rapidly and refrigerate.
Cool foods fast — the shallower the container 3" (8cm) or less, the faster foods cool. Cool large quantities of warm food in several shallow containers — not one large container.
Taking food to the party — keep the food cool (below 4ºC) in a cooler with ice packs. If transporting hot food, keep hot food hot (above 60ºC) for the entire journey.
Serve hot food hot, and cold food cold at the party! Use a digital food thermometer to test temperatures. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours of being served.
Mrs. C's Kitchen Basics
Can I refreeze fish or meat once it is thawed?
"A good question and the answer is - it depends!" Thawing and refreezing anything will affect the quality of the food. Ice crystals damage cell structure and freezing may remove moisture from the food. In terms of safety, if the food has been in the refrigerator while thawing and is still partially frozen then it can be refrozen. However, if the food was thawed out of the fridge or in the microwave, then do not refreeze. Parts of the surface or interior of the food will have been exposed to temperatures above 4ºC for a period of time. If the food has been thawed, the safest thing to do is cook the fish or meat before refreezing. Never thaw food on the counter. Foods thawed in a mircrowave need to be cooked immediately.
Should you cool leftovers before refrigerating?
"No, you do not need to cool hot food before you put it in the fridge, but very hot food (e.g. simmering chili) can be left out for 30 minutes before refrigerating". The key is to cool hot food quickly to prevent bacteria growth. Bacteria grow very well in the temperature range of 4ºC - 60ºC. Food should be cooled to 4ºC or lower as quickly as possible.
Fast cooling tips include:
store food in shallow containers (3 inches (8 cm) or less);
stir hot foods occasionally to speed-up cooling;
do not stuff the fridge - allow cool air to circulate around food.
Is it safe to eat food after the 'best before' date?
"It depends on how you look after the food". 'Best before' dates and 'packaged on' dates are important labels to read when food shopping. The 'best before' date indicates how long the unopened product will retain its freshness and high quality — it's more a quality indicator than a safety indicator. Once vacuum-packed packages are opened, the 'best before' date no longer applies. The product's storage life is now the same as if it were a fresh product. The 'packaged on' date tells you the day the fresh food was packaged in the store. This date is usually the starting point for how long you can expect the food to stay safe to eat.
Download the Food Storage Guide at www.canfightbac.org for easy reference. If food is not handled safely either in the store or by the consumer (e.g. fresh meat or dairy products not kept refrigerated) it can become unsafe to eat before the 'best before' date.
Should you wash meat or poultry before preparing it? Does this promote food safety?
Washing raw poultry, beef, pork, lamb, or veal before cooking is not recommended. Review of studies from several universities related to washing meat and poultry indicate that there is no benefit. In fact, washing can allow bacteria on meat and poultry to spread to other ready-to-eat foods. Bacteria that may be present on the surface of the meat or poultry will be destroyed by cooking to proper temperatures.
Can I eat pizza when it has been left out over night?
"You can, but don't!" To prevent bacteria growth in food, food should be kept hot (60ºC) or higher or cold (4ºC) or lower — and never left at room temperature for more than two hours. Cheese and meat are good mediums for bacteria growth. Food like pizza should be handled using safe food handling practices. To keep leftover pizza safe, cover it and store it in the refrigerator.
What is salmonella?
Salmonella is a type of bacteria that can make people sick. The disease you get from Salmonella is called salmonellosis. Salmonella bacteria live in the environment, in animal feed and in the intestines of animals. This means that foods or places exposed to animal waste might contain Salmonella bacteria. You can come in contact with it through:
raw and undercooked meat, especially poultry;
unpasteurized (raw) milk and milk products like raw milk cheeses;
raw and undercooked eggs and their products (e.g., homemade hollandaise sauce);
sprouts (uncooked seed and bean sprouts);
unwashed raw fruits and vegetables and their products (e.g., unpasteurized juice) Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill are your best protection!
Eggs — is it true you should not store eggs on the refrigerator door?
"Yes, it's true!" Store eggs in their original container — in the center or back of the fridge where the temperature will fluctuate less than on the door. The carton guards against breakage and odor absorption and helps to prevent moisture loss which lowers egg quality. Buy eggs with clean, uncracked shells and discard dirty, cracked or leaking eggs. Use fresh, Canada Grade A eggs. The 'best before' date on the carton will help determine freshness.
What is freezer burn and is it safe to eat products that have freezer burn?
"Freezer burn" is simply dry spots on frozen products. It can be prevented with proper packaging. Dry spots can be cut away and the food safely eaten. While it is safe to freeze foods in their supermarket wrappings, many supermarket wrappings are air permeable. To maintain food quality, over wrap packages with airtight heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap, freezer paper, or plastic freezer bags. Date packages and use the oldest items first.
Can I cut mold off cheese and still safely eat it?
While cheese-makers use cultured molds to make cheese — mold gives Brie and Camembert their delicious edible rinds — not all cheese mold is edible. Some molds cause spoilage by growing on the surface of cheese. They produce streaks of discoloration, clumps of blue, green or white fuzzy looking growths — these molds are bad and unsafe to eat!
If mold forms on hard or firm cheese (e.g., cheddar, parmesan), generously trim off mold plus 2.5 cm (1 inch) of cheese surrounding it (be careful to keep your knife clean of mold); wrap the trimmed cheese in new wax/plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Discard fresh cheese, soft cheese (e.g., feta, brie, camembert) and processed cheese that is moldy. It is difficult to judge how far the mold has penetrated — so do not keep it, or eat it. To prevent mold growth on cheese, refrigerate cheese sealed in its original packaging, until ready to use. Once opened, wrap the cheese tightly in waxed paper or plastic wrap and keep refrigerated. If moisture has condensed on the cheese, wipe it off with a clean paper towel before rewrapping.
Mrs. Cookwell's Kitchen Food Safety Tools - The Basic Starter Kit
When you're moving into your own place for the first time, here are some kitchen tools you'll need to handle foods safely.
Digital Food Thermometer (about $15) — Use to check the doneness of foods near the end of cooking. Available at hardware stores (like Home Hardware) and cookware stores. These thermometers can be used in all foods - burgers, roasts, chicken pieces and even casseroles while oven-safe meat thermometers are okay just for roasts and whole poultry.
Cooking Temperatures Chart (free!) — Download the perfect partner for your food thermometer - the Cooking Temperatures Chart (free!) - and tape it inside your kitchen cupboard for easy reference.
Refrigerator Thermometer — We take for granted that our fridge is cold enough to keep foods safe, but is it? With a fridge thermometer, you know! Order yours through the consumer products section at www.canfightbac.org or purchase at hardware stores. Set your fridge dial to keep temperatures at 4°C or less.
Food Storage Guide (free) — Download the Food Storage Guide (free) for guidelines on how long you can keep foods in the fridge and freezer.
Kitchen Soap — Keep hand soap in the kitchen and bathrooms and use to wash hands before, during and after food preparation. Keep a nail brush at the sink too.
Household Bleach — Mix 25 mL with 3.750 L water in a sink and use to sanitize washed cutting boards. Rinse off before drying.
Insulated Lunch Bag and Ice Pack - Keep your packed lunch cool - a great way to save money and eat better!
Two Cutting Boards — Mark one for meats and the other, for cooked foods and washed produce. If you can't get two, scrub up your single cutting board and sanitize with bleach solution or wash in the dishwasher.
Tea Towels, Hand Towels and Dish Cloths — Get your hands on plenty if you can and wash them often in hot soapy water.
Plastic Wrap and/or Re-useable Sealable Plastic Tubs — Use either to cover your foods, keeping them safe for fridge or freezer storage.
Nice To Haves
Paper Towels - Great for one-time use like for wiping raw meat juice off the counter or a spill from the floor — don't use your kitchen towels for that!
Spray Bottle — Clean out an old cleanser bottle to use for a bleach and water spray (5 mL:750 mL). After clean up, use with paper towels to wipe counters, sink, handles on taps, doors and fridge — even the kitchen phone.
Large Sealable Freezer Bags or Foil Wrap — Use either of these for over-wrapping meat before it goes into the freezer. The bags work well for storing washed lettuce and marinating meat too.
Cooler — A cooler goes beyond beer chilling — use when taking hot or cold foods out to a party.