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Food Safety: An Important Skill in the Kitchen

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Food Safety: An Important Skill in the Kitchen

Learn more about food safety and the basic steps you'll need to prepare delicious meals.


Food safety is an important skill to keep in mind when preparing delicious meals and snacks. Foodborne pathogens (bacteria, viruses, or parasites that cause foodborne illnesses) are sneaky and can make you sick even though the food may look fine to your eyes. Each year millions of people get sick from foodborne illness (ex: Salmonella, E. Coli). 


Four Basic Steps to Food Safety:


1. CLEAN: Wash hands and surfaces often

Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, countertops, and food easily. Tips to make sure your hands and surfaces are clean:

  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds in warm water and soap before, during, and after handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or handling pets

  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot soapy water

  • Rinse fresh fruits & vegetables and scrub firm-skin fruits & vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten – Germs can spread from outside to the inside of fresh produce as you cut or peel the fruits

  • Clean lids of canned goods before opening

2. SEPARATE: Don’t cross-contaminate

Cross-contamination is when bacteria are spread from one food product to another. Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs away from ready-to-eat foods. Tips to prevent cross-contamination:

  • Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from other foods in your grocery shopping cart, grocery bags, and fridge

  • Never use the same plate for cooked food that once held raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs without first washing the plate with hot soapy water

  • Don’t reuse marinades used on raw foods unless you bring them to a boil first

  • If possible, use separate cutting boards: one for raw foods and another for ready-to-eat foods. There are cutting board sets available that further divide different types of food (ex: red cutting board for beef, yellow cutting board for chicken, grey cutting board for cooked foods, etc.)

3. COOK: Cook to a safe temperature

Cooking to the right internal temperature will kill germs that can make you sick. Always use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of cooked foods. You cannot tell if food is safely cooked by checking color and texture. 




Types of Food





Safe Internal Temperature





All poultry, including ground (ground chicken, ground turkey, etc)










Ground beef, pork, lamb, veal










Leftovers and casseroles










Fresh ham (raw)










Beef, pork, lamb, veal: chops, roasts, and steaks








*let rest 3 minutes after removal from the heat source before serving













*Cook shrimp, lobster, and crab until they turn red and the flesh is pearly opaque



*Cook clams, mussels, and oysters until the shells open. If the shells do not open, do not eat the seafood inside





Sauces, Soups, Gravy





Bring to a boil when reheating





Other Leftovers










Hot dog, luncheon meats, bologna, and other deli meats





If reheating: 165°F




4. CHILL: Refrigerate Promptly

The Danger Zone for foodborne illnesses is 40-140°F, the range of temperature where bacteria can grow rapidly. Keep your fridge at 40°F or below and the freezer to be 0°F or below. Tips on chilling food properly:

  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable foods within 2 hours of purchasing or cooking; within 1 hour if the temperature outside is more than 90°F

  • Thaw foods in the fridge, in cold water, or the microwave. Cook the food immediately if you thaw food in cold water or the microwave. Never thaw food on the countertops at room temperature

  • Divide foods into smaller containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator


To learn more about food safety, visit CDC.gov