Katie learns to Cook: Chapter 2, take 2

July 8, 2012

Welcome to my third installment of my Katie learns to Cook series.  Last week I walked you through the first half of Chapter 2, where we learned about Food Safety.  For the second part of Chapter 2, we reviewed the general principles of Sanitation.  

First and foremost, a few important vocab words to become familiar with.

cross-contamination: the process whereby one contaminated item ( a finger, a dish, etc), contaminates something else, such as food or another utensil/kitchen tool.  This is a big deal in food prep.

clean:   In the food world, when something is clean it has no visible dirt, grime or the like.

sanitary:  when something is sanitary, not only is it clean, but any harmful substance that may be left behind has been brought to levels that are considered to be safe.

sterilize: the process of erradicating any lovely microorganisms that may or may not cause harm.

HACCP system:  the HACCP system stands for the Hazardous Analysis Critical Control Points system.  This system isn’t anything that’s official, but allows the food prep to walk through the process of obtaining, preparing and serving an item of food and identifying any points along the way (a critical control point ) where mistakes may happen and cause the food to become cross-contaminated.

Clearly, cross contamination is a big deal in this chapter, so lets take a quick look at some of the more common ways CC can occur.

1.  Personal Cleanliness:  Where clothes that fit, don’t wipe your snotty nose and then touch your food.  When you’re washing your handss, be sure to do so in hot running and soapy water, paying special attention to your fingers and nails, rinse and repeat! Clean Clean Clean!

2.  Dish and Equipment Cleanliness:  A lot of no-brainers, that in actuality people tend to not do in their own kitchen.  Don’t wipe something off the floor with a dishtowel and put the dishtowel back on its rod.  If you’re cutting something that could contain microorganisms (read: raw meat), be sure to switch cutting boards and utensils before moving on in your food prep.  Never put cooked food BACK into the container you stored it in when it was raw and always keep raw food below the cooked to avoid cross contamination that way.

3. Pest Management:  Probably one of the grossest of the three, pest management focuses mainly on rodents and insects.  The general rule of thumb, is that if you SEE the pest, then  there’s probably a serious infestation going on and you may want to consider some professional pest management.  Some helpful tips to help with pest management include ideas such as sealing up any and all cracks, especially in your kitchen, don’t leave standing water (cockroaches LOVE this stuff).  One that I never thought of is to store your food off the ground and away from the wall, so as to not tempt any pests with easy access to the goods.  Another rule of thumb is to rotate your stock, using what’s fondly known as the FIFO rule, first in, first out.  If you buy something on Monday, use it before the things that you bought the following Wednesday.

And for today’s gross-tacular lesson of the day? COCKROACHES.  In my first apartment complex, I learned that my cat was quite the cockroach hunter.  She loved to snack on half and thoughtfully left me the other half to do the same (I didn’t).  Cockroaches were one of the major insect pests that this chapter focused on.  And I thought I’d share a few highlights.

These gross buggers really only like to scurry around at night (if you’ve never seen a cockroach move, these guys are FAST and there is no other word than scurry to describe how they move).  Therefore, if you see any in the daylight you better throw in your cards and call the pro’s, because there’s likely a MAJOR infestation going down in your place.

Because they largely move around at night, here are some helpful hints in how to identify a possible infestation.   Cockroaches have a strong residual oily odor, that can be smelled after they’re gone and their feces apparently look a lot like pepper.  Another helpful hint?  Get a cat.  They’re good cockroach hunters.

So that wraps up our chapter on food cleanliness, safety and sanitation.  Some important things to remember are to make sure you take into consideration what kind of food you’re cooking and make an effort to understand the possible ways your food may be contaminated along the way.  From where it comes from, how its handled, cooked and served, there are plenty of places for food to go wrong.  Not to mention the way we take care of our kitchen and personal hygiene.  The fact is, there are a ton of things that aren’t in our control when it comes to keeping our food safe, but happily, there are plenty of things we can  do to try to prevent anything truly harmful from happening.

See you tomorrow for another week!

xo

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