With Christmas fast approaching, many of us are planning holiday meals. In the excitement of planning the menu, however, people tend to neglect essential safety precautions. Preparing food improperly can lead to serious consequences, such as food poisoning. To keep your guests safe and happy during the holiday season, here are some simple food preparation tips.

#1 Prepare holiday meal safely

Before diving into cooking or baking, ensure your environment is clean and safe. This includes taking safety precautions for food and preparation tools. Defrost all meat in the refrigerator, but remember that some items may take longer to defrost than others. If you have a large chicken or turkey, for instance, it may take several days to defrost. If you simply cannot wait, place the meat in cool water. It’s important to change this water every half hour, though.

#2 Wash fruit and vegetables

Before preparing, all fruits and vegetables must be washed under running water. Use a produce brush for optimal results. Remember to also wash all skin and rinds. Clean the lids of canned fruit or vegetables before opening. This way, no germs will enter the contents. Then, wipe the cleaned lid using a damp paper towel to remove residue.

#3 Sanitise preparation surfaces

For a safe and comfortable cooking experience, all surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned. You can either opt for a DIY solution or a commercial disinfectant. For the best results, wash all utensils, work surfaces and cutting boards with a solution of diluted bleach and water and ensure all cooking tools are rinsed thoroughly with water after each use.

For a handy, DIY cleaning solution, place 1/3 of a cup of chlorinated bleach into three litres of fresh water. Place the solution into a spray bottle to wipe down counters and other surfaces.

#4 Avoid cross-contamination

If not thoroughly washed between uses, cooking utensils can cause contamination. This also applies to the foods you are preparing. We recommend keeping raw meat, eggs, seafood and poultry separate from raw foods. Doing so will prevent any risk of cross-contamination. Likewise, ensure all perishable foods (i.e. fresh meat, dairy products, etc.) are either refrigerated or frozen. You will prevent both cross-contamination and spoilage.

#5 Cook to correct temperature

If undercooked, food can pose a serious health risk to your guests. It’s also essential that food is served at the appropriate temperature. This way, you will prevent ingredients (such as perishables) from sitting at room temperature for too long. Cooking food at the incorrect temperature can lead to painful food-borne illnesses, like salmonella and food poisoning.

#6 Know correct temperatures of each dish

It is absolutely vital to know the right temperature for every dish. Remember to keep perishable foods cold and hot foods heated. As a guide, cold foods should have a constant temperature of 4 degrees or less, and hot foods should be kept above 60 degrees until you serve them. Have you left something on the counter and are unsure whether it’s safe to eat? Dispose of it immediately. To prevent food-borne illness, it’s important to be cautious.

#7 Keep cold food cold

Although it is obvious, many people forget to leave cold foods in the refrigerator. The optimum temperature should be 4 degrees or lower. We recommend serving cold dishes immediately or serving them on a platter set on a bed of ice. As a general rule, any dish containing cheese, eggs or other dairy products are best served chilled. This prevents possible food poisoning.

#8 Avoid over-packing

During the holidays, you may prepare too much food, or your guests may bring dishes. This can result in a crowded refrigerator or oven. Ensure there is open space between each dish in the fridge, so the cool air can freely circulate. The oven must not be overfilled, so the air currents can circulate. This ensures your meal will cook quickly and evenly.

#9 Serve food safely

When hosting guests, we know you’d much rather enjoy their company than being stuck in the kitchen. So, when preparing food beforehand, it’s crucial to know the correct serving temperatures. As a rule of thumb, here are some common holiday foods and their ideal serving temperatures:

• Beef, veal, roast, chops and steaks – 62.7°C
• Pork cuts – 71.1°C
• Poultry (minimum internal temperature) – 73.8°C
• Beef mince, lamb and veal – 71.1°C and;
• Stuffing – 73.8°C

For more handy food safety tips, contact the AIA team today.