Keeping safe in the kitchen this holiday season

Published 8:33pm Thursday, December 12, 2013

It is the holiday season, and with all the celebrating comes wonderful food and lots of it. Here are some tips on how to lower food risks, and ways to keep safe in the kitchen.
Preparation: Keep pot holders close by. Never wear loose clothing or dangling jewelry while cooking as these could become tangled around pot or pan handles.
Don’t put food directly in the sink, as the sink is often the dirtiest place in the kitchen. Turn pot and pan handles away from the front of the stove. This prevents children from grabbing them, and adults from bumping them.
Wear plastic gloves when handling peppers. This will protect your eyes and skin, and prevent transferring the pepper’s taste to other dishes. Wash your hands. Always wash your hands before handling foods, and after handling foods like poultry, meats or fish. Also, separate poultry, meats and fish from other foods.
Keep your knives sharp. A sharp knife is safer than a dull one. Dull knives require extra pressure, which could cause the knife to slip. Wipe up spills immediately on counter tops to prevent bacterial contamination, and clean spills on floors to prevent anyone from slipping. Keep a fire extinguisher handy. Make sure your fire extinguisher is up to date, and make sure you and your family know how to use it.
Cooking: Make sure your refrigerator’s temperature is 40 degrees or less. Place a thermometer in your refrigerator and check it often. To prevent contamination, use one hand to handle meat and poultry, while reaching into other containers for seasonings. When using a food processer or blender, only fill half way to prevent spills. Heat can increase the volume of sauces and soups. Don’t wash produce until ready for use. If you wash your produce as soon as you come home from the market, molds and bacteria can grow in water left behind. Keep a sanitizing bottle. Make a mixture of one full cap of bleach per quart of water, and keep in a spray bottle to sanitize cutting boards and counters between uses. Use a cooking thermometer. Place the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat (be sure not to press against bone in the meat you’re cooking) before putting it in the oven. Keep the thermometer in the meat while cooking, unless you are using an instant-read thermometer. Meat temperature should be held at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
Storage: When storing holiday leftovers, place toward the back of the refrigerator where its consistently cool; unlike the front, or the opened fridge door. Also, let hot dishes cool down a bit before storing. If you place a hot dish directly in the refrigerator, it will heat up your refrigerator, endangering everything else in there. Do not let food get cool, or room temperature, just don’t place in fridge piping hot. Food that isn’t hot should be refrigerated immediately. Clean your refrigerator frequently, and wipe up spills immediately. This helps prevent Listeria bacterial growth. Don’t push frozen items to the back of the freezer. This will block the flow of cold air (cold air from the freezer is what cools your refrigerator) down into your refrigerator.
Diet or exercise question? Email Or visit David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal train for 27 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach for the USC-Spartanburg baseball team, S.C. state champion girl’s gymnastic team and the Converse college equestrian team. He served as a water safety consultant to the United States Marine Corps, lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency and taught four semesters at USC-Union. Crocker was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.

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