Let’s Keep It Clean

I once heard a report that said most American home kitchens would fail if a health inspector came calling. Either we’ve gotten lazy, or our mothers simply didn’t teach us how to keep our kitchens clean. A clean kitchen is vital for good health since many so-called cases of “stomach flu” aren’t the flu at all, but foodborne illnesses.

Keeping your kitchen clean and healthy would include doing the following…

• Washing your hands thoroughly with soap, preferably an antibacterial soap, before handling any foods, and rewashing them as you go, especially after handling raw meat.

• Keep kitchen surfaces clean. Wipe down your stove and all your counter tops down each and every time you wash the dishes.  Wipe up splashes and spills as soon as they happen. Those disposable disinfectant cloths can come in very handy.

• Clean up as you go. Sounds simple enough, but sometimes we need to be reminded. Those dirty dishes, cooking utensils and pots and pans left all day, or all night, in the kitchen sink are a breeding ground for bacteria like salmonella, and did you know that salmonella can become airborne?

• Use a dishrag, instead of a sponge, for washing dishes, and launder your dishrags frequently.

• The best way to defrost meats is overnight in the refrigerator, but in the real world that’s not always possible. If you have to defrost something in a hurry the best way go is to either defrost it in a sink full of hot water, or on the countertop, covered.  Remember what I said about salmonella being airborne?  I can’t think of a better way to invite a foodborne illness than to leave uncovered meat to defrost on a countertop next to a sink full of dirty dishes.

• Use plastic cutting boards. I have two cutting boards. One is used exclusively for cutting meats, the other for cutting vegetables. Wash your cutting boards thoroughly, with hot water, after each use. Never ever use a wooden cutting board for cutting anything but bread.

• Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.  Remember the food temperature danger zone is between 40º F and 140º F.  Foods kept in this temperature zone for more than 4 hours should be disposed of.

• Keep foods in the refrigerator covered, and clean up spills and messes in the refrigerator immediately.  Again, those disposable disinfectant wipes can do wonders.

• Store cleaning products away from food to prevent cross-contamination.  I keep all my cleaning products underneath the kitchen sink.

• Use plastic trash bags to line your kitchen wastebasket.  If your kitchen wastebasket is small enough you can save money by using plastic grocery bags instead.

Let’s keep it clean, folks.