Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kitchen Hygiene

Kitchen hygiene. How how I (sometimes) despiseth thou. Keeping a kitchen clean and hygenic can be quite the nightmare, sometimes. If it's not for you being sick, tired or overworked, there's little sticky hands looking for crackers and jam, or just Owners having midnight snacks. I know if I just look away for two seconds, it's suddenly full of packages, dishes, pots and pans, and I'm wondering where the heck they came from.

Sometimes I wonder why I bother. Then, just now, at school, we've gone through kitchen bacteria and food poisoning - suddenly I think I need to give my kitchen a good scrubdown. There are some main pointers to keep your kitchen hygenic and your food safe, and I'll try explain why they're important:

Heat everything to 70C (160F) - This will kill most bacteria, for example salmonella, campylobacter and staphylococus aureus. It's really important to know this if you have a poor immunesystem or children. Now, most greens and vegetables can be served cold and uncooked, but wash them carefully in that case. EHEC is a version of e. coli. which can in lead to a fatal disease in the elderly and in children. If you google "e. coli. child death", the 754.000 pages found are quite depressing.

Keep your kitchen dry and clean. - Bacteria thives on moist, warm surfaces. Normal room-temperature is plenty enough warmth for most bacteria to grow. Small flecks of soup or water on already dingy surfaces become a breeding ground, a nest, for all kinds of yucky stuff that we'd rather not think about. Tidy up, dry off and avoid the hazard.

Wash hands after cracking eggs or touching raw meat – with soap that you rub vigorously for 20 seconds. - Washing your hands is the one of the most important thing you can do while cooking. Properly washing you hands means removing all jewelry (which you shouldn't wear while cooking anyway - engravings on rings can be filled with gunk), wetting your hands and taking some soap. Then rubb vigorously while singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Remember between your fingers, under your nails and your cuticles - if you're baking, go up to your elbow. Rinse and dry off on a clean towel. If you touch raw meat, eggshells, your nose, sneeze, cough or accept something from your little one, you need to wash your hands again.

Wash all utensils promptly and always use fresh clean utensils between foods. - Don't touch cooked food with utensils that have just touched raw food. Don't use the same knife for all your ingredients. Wash and dry them in hot water with dishwashing liquid, dry and then go back. If one ingredient is contaminated, you will avoid contaminating the rest of them this way.

Never stick a finger in to taste, always use a fresh clean spoon. - I don't care how many spoons you have to wash. If you stick your finger in to have a taste, the food in the pot is contaminated. The end. Your mouth may carry Staphylocous aureus, and it may be on your skin. If whatever you're tasting is boiling, that's probably not a big problem, but for safety's sake - use a clean spoon every time and toss it in the sink after tasting.

Wash all cutting boards promply and buy new ones at least yearly. - Ah, yes. The cutting board issue. Wood or plastic? In my kitchen at school, we've one wood for vegetables and greens, and one plastic for meat, poultry and fish. That works out pretty well, since they won't contaminate each other. When your cutting board starts to get worn, get a new one. In one of those cracks, just as in your ring engraving, there may be hiding some nasty stuff that you can't get off. In the meanwhile, wash all cutting boards as soon as you're done. Hot, sudsy water works great, but do disenfect them from time to time, please?

Keep your fridge at 4C (39F) and your freezer at -18C (-1F). - 4C, or 40F, is the highest temperature allowed to store raw fish at (in Sweden). Fish should actually be stored at the point where ice starts melting, to keep the longest. But anyway, proper temperature in fridge and freezer will keep bacteria at a minimum. There are still bacteria that grow in fridge temperature, like Aeromonas Hydrophilas which is found in, among other things, freshwater fish, can grow in a fridge. When you take things out and the slowly heat up again, the bacteria growth increases. It does not, in anyway, decrease when the item is chilled again. It simply keeps growing, but slower.

Chill food rapidly, so that it reaces 4C (40F) within four hours. - A pot of beef stew can keep a core temp high for a long time, which is also oxygen free and clostridium perfringens mentioned above is having a field day. To avoid that window where bacteria can and does grow, you need to chill food rapidly. In winter, if you can, put it outside in snow and stirr ocationally. In summer, fill your sink with cold water and dump ice in it, then add the pot. Stirr about ever 15 minutes, so that it cools evenly. Add more ice and swap water as needed. Never EVER fall for the old custom of keeping a pot of soup or stew by the stove and reheating the entire thing when you want to eat, only to leave it to cool to room temperature on it's own.

Always reheat to 65C (150F), or serve at below 8C (46F). - Hot food is to be hot and cold food to be cold. That keeps you from that window where bacteria grows. Of course, eating food that's just cooled off on your plate is a rather low risk, but don't serve lukewarm food. Don't buy grilled chicken being kept warm, unless it's hot to the touch. Don't eat at a restaurant or buffé if you food is lukewarm.

Sanitize rags, dishcloths, sponges and brushes, knives and cuttingboards by submerging in bleach solution – two teaspoons of bleach to one quart of water for five minutes. - Or discard them, wash them or change them, as apprpriate. This keeps your utensils and cleaning tools ... well, clean. Sanitary. Hygenic. And all that good stuff. Weekly is a good idea, if not every few days.

Use rubbing alcohol on counter tops, in the fridge, on doors, door knobs, handles and lightfixtures. - ... and anywhere else you touch a lot, like the side of that door that you tend to swing shut behind you. You don't need to go crazy with the sanitizing - it's a home, not a hospital, after all. I'd suggest doing it ever once in a while or when spring and/or fall cleaning, anyway. Or after someone has had a flu or stomach bug. It's so easy to touch these places and not think about it when you return to cooking.

Of course, after writing about this, studying and breathing it for the past fourteen days, I'm a bit obsessive. However, I consider the above to be commonsense, normal guidelines for kitchen hygiene. So, being a good (pompous) example, I'm now off to clean the kitchen. Without a black-light or petry-dish, thank good God.

Bio: I'm Daphne, and I'm a service-oriented submissive. I'm from Sweden, which is not to be confused with Switzerland - we don't make clocks or chocolate, nor do we wear leatherhosen. I've been in service for the past four years, to my Owner Mephisto. I love cooking, cleaning and organizing. My passion lies in making my Owner's life as pleasant and smooth as possible. I'm also a strong advocate for organic food without additives and cooking from scratch. I recycle, buy used and don't own a car, to minimize my carbon footprint. I'm studying for a Bachelor's in Culinary Arts and Meal Science

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