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Food safety and hygiene is really important in order to keep you and your family safe and there are some very simple tips that you can follow in order to do this.
Chilling food correctly is one of the easiest ways to make sure that harmful bacteria is kept at bay.
It’s really important that chilled food is kept out of the fridge for as short a time as possible when you’re preparing meals.
This is because of the ‘Danger Zone’, which is the temperature range between 8°C and 63°C that is, typically, where the harmful bacteria grows.
Because of this temperature range, you should also defrost your food in the fridge before cooking and not out at room temperature.
By defrosting it this way, you can be sure that the temperature of your food isn’t dropping into the ‘Danger Zone’ which helps to ensure that harmful bacteria isn’t present.
If you can’t defrost food in the fridge, then you can also use the ‘defrost’ function on your microwave just before cooking instead.
Do make sure that you’re not freezing food that’s already been defrosted, and also that you’re eating defrosted food within 24 hours.
Any leftover food that you want to chill or freeze should be completely cool before doing so and, if you want to store cooked rice, make sure that you’re following the NHS guidelines in order to keep yourself and your family safe.
Finally, don’t overfill your fridge. In order to function properly, you need to ensure that you’re leaving space which allows air to circulate and maintain the correct temperature.
You should also use a fridge thermometer in order to keep an eye on the temperature and make sure that the coldest section is always below 5°C.
While we’re on the subject of organising your fridge, you should always make sure that you keep raw meat covered up and on the bottom shelf, separate from any cooked meat.
This will help to ensure that raw meat isn’t touching or dripping onto any ready-to-eat food and transferring any harmful bacteria.
In terms of avoiding cross-contamination when cooking, you need to make sure that you’re washing your hands after touching any raw food and before you handle any food that’s ready to eat.
Make sure that you use different chopping boards for raw meat and other ingredients and always make sure that you clean them thoroughly in between!
You can even get colour coded chopping boards to help you remember which board to use for which ingredients which makes things super simple and really easy.
Remember to wash your hands in warm, soapy water before you prepare, eat or cook food and, if this isn’t possible, use hand sanitiser instead – this said, however, nothing is as effective as soap and water!
This is because when you wash your hands, you’re not actually killing the bacteria – you’d need to maintain a temperature of 70°C for a while to do this!
The lather and motion of washing your hands means that the bacteria is loosened enough to be washed down the drain. This is the reason that warm water is recommended instead of cold, as it helps the soap to lather up properly.
You also need to make sure that you’re cleaning your surfaces as you go. If you’re using a detergent or disinfectant in order to do this, then it’s really important to make sure that you follow the manufacturer instructions, and leave it on your surfaces for the full amount of time specified – otherwise it won’t work!
Most importantly, don’t wash raw meat! Many people wash raw chicken before cooking as they believe that this removes the bacteria.
Although washing it may mean that the bacteria is no longer on the meat, it also means that it’ll splash all over your clothes, utensils, hands and worktops!
If you’re making a dish like our 20 Minute Whole Chicken, or our Lemon and Garlic Chicken Tray Bake, then you don’t need to worry about bacteria as long as you’re cooking your food thoroughly – this will ensure that anything that is present is killed.
You need to make sure that all of your meat is cooked thoroughly so that you can make sure that any and all harmful bacteria is killed.
You should check that all food is piping hot and cooked all the way through before you serve it. A really easy way to tell if your meat is cooked is by checking that none of it is pink throughout and that any juices run clear.
If you want to be super safe, then use a meat thermometer to double check, as standard advice in the UK is to make sure that your food has hit 70°C and stayed at that temperature for 2 minutes.
This is all pretty common advice for poultry and pork, but did you know that it also applies to things like mince and burgers too? This means that things like our Tex Mex Burgers need to be well done throughout and not medium or rare.
The reason that burgers are different to steaks or joints is that bacteria lives on the outside of the meat and so, when you sear off your steak or roast your joint, this bacteria is killed.
When you’re cooking burgers however, the bacteria has been mixed through all of the meat during the mincing process which means it’s super important to make sure it’s completely cooked.
You can find specific advice on storing and freezing food in all of our recipes and – where possible – we’ve also included instructions on reheating.
If you have any questions about our recipes, then make sure that you join our Facebook Group. We have a really great community who are full of fantastic advice to help you on your slimming journey and are more than happy to help answer any queries you might have!
Remember, we always advise that you make sure that you’re following the latest NHS guidelines around food preparation and cooking in order to keep you and your family safe.
You can find the NHS advice around this here.