How often do you scrutinize your home kitchen with the intensity of a certified public health inspector? Our guess is not as much as you should, but don’t worry — we’re totally guilty of it too. Sure, no one’s giving our kitchens a letter grade or writing a make-or-break review in the local paper about the cleanliness of our countertops, but that doesn’t mean they only deserve a once-over.
That’s why we’ve consulted a health inspector for some expertise regarding the worst things we do in the kitchen that we should put an end to ASAP. We tapped Robert Acquista, a supervisor for the Public Health Food Protection Program in Columbus, Ohio, for more than 30 years, who inspected our Editor-in-Cheif’s kitchen a few years ago! As you can probably imagine, Rob knows a thing or two about food safety in the kitchen.
Here are his top five kitchen no-nos.
1. Assuming food is done.
“Start taking temperatures when you cook; never assume the food is done,” Acquista tells us. To help you know when food is really ready, we recommend investing in a trustworthy thermometer. And check out this list of USDA-recommended minimum internal temperatures, so that you know what you’re looking for.
Go shopping: I’ve Tried Nearly Every Meat Thermometer. Here Are My 3 Favorites.
2. Forgetting to wash your hands.
“Even if you wash your hands, you’re probably not washing them enough,” Rob says. Make sure you use soap and warm water, and scrub for at least 20 seconds. That includes the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails, too.
Related: 5 Ways to Make Your Guests Wash Their Hands
3. Leaving food out.
“Don’t leave food out — especially leftovers.” Food enters a “danger zone” between temperatures of 40°F and 140°F, so a good rule is to never leave food (groceries or something you’ve made) out at room temperature for more than two hours.
4. Using your bare hands.
“Try not to use bare hands while working with food. Use utensils, deli tissue — anything but your hands. On the commercial end, we say no bare hand contact.” Obviously, we’re not gonna tell you to start wearing gloves in your home kitchen, but think as if you are. Whenever you’d need to change or take off the gloves, it’s time to wash your hands. (See above!)
5. Cross-contaminating food.
“Keep raw foods away from ready-to-eat foods,” Rob says. This principle applies to grocery shopping, too. Keep proteins like packaged meat and raw eggs away from produce and pantry items in your shopping cart, and do the same when you unload into the fridge and cabinets at home.
Related: Why You Should *Never* Put Eggshells Back in the Carton
What would a health inspector say about your kitchen?
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