The Food Groupie Club

Hi my name is Sarah and I'm addicted to food. I have been a chef professionally for about 12 years now and am currently teaching cooking classes at a culinary school. I seriously love to cook and eat good food. The problem with cooking and eating like the professionals though is that it can be kind of intimidating for a home food enthusiast. My goal is to bring good food into every-day homes. Anyone can make healthy, good quality, good tasting, and good looking food with the right know-how. So here you made easy by a professional!

I will be featuring some of my favorite chef's recipes in my posts and will note in the post what book was used. Their books that I use will be listed in my must have cookbooks tab.

Food Safety Tips

This page is dedicated to the safety conscious Terra Olsen.  Thanks for suggesting this page.

If you have a food safety question about something that I haven't included on here, please ask it in the comments section at the bottom.

I can't stress how important it is for home cooks to be more careful with your food! You are more likely to get food poisoning from yourself vs. a restaurant, but for some reason when we do get sick we ALWAYS blame the place who had the unfortunate luck of being the last place you happened to eat out at.  When you are cooking for others its important to keep their health in mind, plus its the polite thing to do.  BTW..... there is no such thing as the 24 hour flu! That is called food poisoning. So here you go.... My list of the top gross things home cooks do with food:

  1. Please wash those hands! Make sure you are using soap and hot water and you must scrub for at least 10-15 seconds. So many people skip this step. Its nasty. I don't want your germs from your cell phone, keys, remotes, kids, spit, snot, or bathroom activities in my food. And just washing them once doesn't count. ANY time you touch something during the cooking process where your hands may become contaminated, wash them again. 
  2. Don't lick your fingers, spoons, spatulas, or anything else that will be going back into the food. This is also known as double dipping.  You might as well be spitting in the food. Its the same thing, just a different method of transfer.
  3. If you cut yourself while cooking: All blood is a bio-hazard! Throw away any food you were working with regardless of whether you see blood on the board or not. Wash the board and knife. Oh an stop working until you get the bleeding controlled and covered with a band-aid AND a glove. Don't skip the glove. You can pick up a box from pretty much anywhere for super cheap, so there is no excuse on this one. If you are working with a bloody band-aid you are still getting blood in the food. Gross is and understatement here.
  4. When working with raw meat or chicken: use a separate acrylic cutting board with these items.  Do not use your regular wood boards. They are porous. Do not prepare anything else on that board. When finished, spray the board and  knife if you used one with a bleach cleaner or any other anti-bacterial cleaner and let it sit for at least 30 seconds before you wash it with soap and hot water.  AND WASH YOUR HANDS! (see step 1)
  5. Lets talk time-temperature abuse. I know most people are used to letting things sit out forever and still eat them "because you've never gotten sick before" doing this.  You may have just been lucky, and once again when you are cooking for others you have no right to put their health at risk.  Just because you have never gotten sick from this doesn't mean others won't.  Keep cold things cold and hot things hot. As far as picnics and potlucks where food sits out and people are picking on it for hours..... cold food can only be out of temperature control for up to 6 hours and hot foods can only be exposed for 4 hours, then must be thrown out at that time. Do not take it home and continue eating from it for the next week. Even if your potluck or picnic doesn't last that long, if the food has been out for more than 1/2 of its "up to" time still discard it. Bacterial growth still happened, and refrigerating does not kill that bacteria. It will be waiting for you next time you dig in.
  6. Thawing: Do not thaw food on the counter, especially meats and poultry. (my favorite: thawing thanksgiving turkeys in the garage)  Always thaw under refrigeration if you have the time to plan ahead. If you are the more spur of the moment type cook, use COLD, RUNNING water. Not hot. It starts cooking the outside and puts it in the Temperature Danger Zone. (TDZ =41-135 degrees.... temp zone bacteria grows most rapidly in) You can only have it in cold water for up to 2 hours, then put it in the fridge. The problem with thawing on the counter is that bacteria live on the surface of meats. The surface is what thaws first. It doesn't matter that the center is still cold. The surface is in the TDZ and bacteria is gowing.
  7. Clean your kitchens!  Did you know that your kitchen sink and counter has more bacteria than the bowl of your toilets? I hope this gives you nightmares, because it should. Before cooking, scrub your sink with comet and spray your counters with an anti-bacterial spray (always let sprays sit for at least 30 seconds before wiping) Do not just wipe up with Lysol wipes. Read the instructions on the back of those wipes. In order to actually "sanitize" anything, the surface must stay "visibly wet" for much longer than it actually does from a regular wipe up. Spending just a few minutes here makes a big difference.
  8. Hey, you know that cold place where you store all your food? Yeah the fridge? Clean it occasionally. Pull everything out, throw out old food, and wash and sanitize all the shelves and drawers. Can't keep food clean if the place its being stored in is dirty.
  9. Speaking of old food. You can only keep prepared food (aka leftovers) for up to 7 days. Throw it out once that 7th day hits. Also, those manufacture discard by dates are not suggestions. Do not sniff it or ask some one else to taste it to see if it "tastes funny" to try to get extra days out of something. Discard dates are way different from sell by dates. You have wiggle room on sell by dates, usually 3-5 days.  There is no wiggle room on discard dates.  Best by dates on dry goods are stupid. They just mean it will be at optimal flavor up to that date, however the product will still be good for a long time after that. Be your own judge on that one.
  10. Its BBQ season!! When grilling, don't use the same unwashed tongs that you used to put the raw meat on the grill to take your cooked meat off the grill. At least wash them or get a different pair before touching the cooked meat.

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