Which Food Safety Rules Do You Really Need to Follow?

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Norovirus and Salmonella are guests that you will want to keep off the invite list for your summer cookouts, because they tend to leave other partygoers home feeling rather sick. Sending your friends home with foodborne illnesses could also get you uninvited to other summer events, so you might rethink your investment in following food safety guidelines when playing host. There is a lot to remember when it comes to food safety, but these guidelines are essential for safe eating. However, there are some tricks you can use to streamline your food preparation and serve guests without taking constant trips to the fridge.

The rules that matter most

You probably know the basics of food safety: Wash vegetables before using, keep meat and produce separated before cooking, cook meat thoroughly, avoid leaving foods out at room temperature, and so on. What you may not know is why these guidelines are recommended in the first place. Unfortunately for us humans, the foods we eat present a great environment for potentially harmful bacteria to reproduce. Even when food is cooked, bacteria may stick around and make you sick.

Keeping bacteria under control

If we eat anything that has served as a home for food-loving bacteria, illnesses ranging from unpleasant to fatal may follow. Most food safety guidelines are related to the temperature and cross-contamination of food, so it is important to keep this in mind when you get in the kitchen. Even if you don’t remember a long list of food rules, you can play it safe knowing that food should only touch clean surfaces and sit at temperatures out of the range of 40 and 140 degrees.

Where you can take shortcuts

You probably haven’t been to a barbecue where the host was constantly taking the temperature of food as it sits out. While this would ensure optimal food safety, you can skip the thermometer and just make sure that food is in chafing trays with candles underneath or ice packs at the bottom. When you prepare food for your event, you can trust that pre-washed vegetables are clean enough to skip the second rinse at home—in fact, rewashing can actually spread more bacteria around than it kills. If you think that you need to rinse frozen chicken while defrosting, think again. Washing raw meat under the tap can splash around bacteria that you won’t want in your kitchen. Finally, make your cleanup easier by ditching the wooden cutting board and sticking with plastic. Plastic boards can go right in the dishwasher, which has a sanitize function to kill any lingering bacteria.

You might not share your food safety secrets in the same way that you swap recipes, but your guests will still be glad you took the time to prepare food safely. Keep these tips in mind as you plan your summer cookouts, and share your top food safety concerns in the comments below.