Cleanliness is Integral in Proper Preparation:
The first cardinal rule of safe food preparation in the home is: Keep everything clean.
The cleanliness rule applies to the areas where food is prepared and, most importantly, to the cook.
Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before starting to prepare a meal and after handling raw meat or poultry.
Cover long hair with a net or scarf, and be sure that any open sores or cuts on the hands are completely covered. If the sore or cut is infected, stay out of the kitchen.
Keep the work area clean and uncluttered. Wash countertops with a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach to 1 quart of water or witha commercial kitchen cleaning agent diluted according to product directions. They're the most effective at getting rid of bacteria.
Also, be sure to keep dishcloths clean because, when wet, they can harbor bacteria and may promote their growth. Wash dishcloths weekly in hot water in the washing machine.
Sanitize the kitchen sink drain periodically by pouring down the sink a solution of 1 teaspoon of bleach to 1 quart of water or a commercial kitchen cleaning agent. Food particles get trapped in the drain and disposal and, along with the moistness, create an ideal environment for bacterial growth.
Use smooth cutting boards made of hard maple or a non-porous material such as plastic and free of cracks and crevices. Avoid boards made of soft, porous materials. Wash cutting boards with hot water and soap, using a scrub brush. Then, sanitize them by washing in an automatic dishwasher or by rinsing with a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach to 1 quart of water.
Always wash and sanitize cutting boards after using them for raw foods, such as seafood or chicken, and before using them for ready-to-eat foods. Consider using one cutting board only for foods that will be cooked, such as raw fish, and another only for ready-to-eat foods, such as bread, fresh fruit, and cooked fish.
Always use clean utensils and wash them between cutting different foods.
Wash the lids of canned foods before opening to keep dirt from getting into the food. Also, clean the blade of the can opener after each use. Food processors and meat grinders should be taken apart and cleaned as soon as possible after they are used.
Do not put cooked meat on an unwashed plate or platter that has held raw meat.
Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly, rinsing under running water. Don't use soap or other detergents. If necessary--and appropriate--use a small scrub brush to remove surface dirt.
Understand the Importance of Temperature:
The second cardinal rule of safe home food preparation is: Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
Use a digital or dial food thermometer to ensure that meats are completely cooked. Insert the thermometer into the center of the food and wait 30 seconds to ensure an accurate measurement. Beef, lamb, and veal should be cooked to at least 145º F (63º C); pork and ground beef to 160º F (71º C); whole poultry and thighs to 180º F (82º C); poultry breasts to 170º F (77º C); and ground chicken or turkey to 165º F (74º C).
Eggs should be cooked until the white and the yolk are firm. Avoid foods containing raw eggs, such as homemade ice cream, mayonnaise, eggnog, cookie dough and cake batter, because they carry a Salmonella risk. Their commercial counterparts usually don't because they're made with pasteurized eggs. Cooking the egg-containing product to an internal temperature of at least 160º F (71º C) will kill the bacteria.
Seafood should be thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145º F (63º C). Fish that's ground or flaked, such as a fish cake, should be cooked to at least 155º F (68º C), and stuffed fish to at least 165º F (74º C).
If you don't have a food thermometer, look for other signs of doneness. For example:
Fish is done when the thickest part becomes opaque and the fish flakes easily when poked with a fork.
Shrimp can be simmered three to five minutes or until the shells turn red.
Clams and mussels are steamed over boiling water until the shells open (five to 10 minutes). Then boil three to five minutes longer.
Oysters should be sautéed, baked or boiled until plump, about five minutes.
Protect food from cross-contamination after cooking, and eat it promptly.
Thawing the turkey completely before cooking is important and necessary to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. If a turkey is not properly thawed, the outside of the turkey will be done before the inside, and the inside will not be hot enough to destroy disease-causing bacteria. Allow the correct amount of time to properly thaw and cook a whole turkey. For example, a 20-pound turkey needs two to three days to thaw completely when thawed in the refrigerator at a temperature of no more than 40º F. A stuffed turkey needs 4 1/4 to 5 3/4 hours to cook completely.
To check a turkey for doneness, insert a food thermometer into the inner thigh area near the breast of the turkey but not touching bone. The turkey is done when the temperature reaches 180º F. If the turkey is stuffed, the temperature of the stuffing should be 165º F.
Food Preparation on the Grill:
Always wash hands before starting any food preparation. Wash hands in warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
Don't forget to clean cutting boards with hot soapy water and a brush. Make a solution of one teaspoon of chlorine bleach to a quart of water and soak the cutting boards for a few minutes. Rinse with clean water and pat dry.
Marinate raw meat, poultry and fish in a covered, non-reactive (glass) dish in the refrigerator. Do not let marinating food sit on the counter.
Do not use the marinade to baste the food once you have started to cook. Instead, set some of the marinade aside before you add the raw meat, poultry or fish.
Marinades should be brought to a boil before using as a sauce on cooked foods.
Bring your food thermometer to the grill to check that foods reach the proper internal temperature.
Beef cuts should be 145º F for medium rare and 160º F for medium.
Whole poultry should be 180º F.
Fish should flake easily with a fork.
Meat patties should be 160º F.
Ground poultry should be 165º F.
When you cut into the food, juices should run clear and the meat should not be pink.
Don't cross-contaminate. Use a clean plate to hold or serve cooked foods. Do not use the plate that was used to carry the meat, poultry or fish to the grill.
Serve hot, grilled foods immediately.