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Food and Kitchen Hygiene For Students

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This is  part VII of a series of articles offering advice to students on subjects such as cooking on a budget,  shopping for food, store-cupboard staples,  cooking tips,  kitchen equipment,  basic kitchen and food hygiene plus lots of easy, nutritious and delicious recipes which won’t break the bank.

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Most students will know the basics of hygiene such as washing your hands before preparing food and checking sell-by dates. However, there are some important things you may not know about food storage and preparation which could prevent you getting ill.


Food Storage


• Cover all foods which are to be stored in cupboards, fridges and freezers to avoid possible contamination . . . be it from insects in cupboards or cross contamination in fridges.


• Store raw meat, poultry and fish towards the bottom of the fridge, dairy produce towards the top of a fridge, cooked products in the middle of the fridge and salad foods in the crisper drawer. If you are sharing the fridge with other students and use the system of each having a shelf,  it is very important that you cover all of your food securely in clingfilm or foil.  Raw meats, poultry and fish are best kept SEPARATELY in air tight plastic boxes - i.e. don't put chicken in the same box as meat.


• Allow food to cool before refrigerating as placing hot food in the fridge will raise the internal temperature sufficiently enough to compromise its storage capabilities.


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• Be aware that bacteria multiplies more rapidly at room temperature so wrap and store foods which should be chilled as soon as possible.


• Once opened, never refrigerate tinned food in the tin. Transfer it to a small container or bowl and cover with clingfilm.


Food Preparation and Cooking for Students


• Thaw meat and fish thoroughly before cooking.

• Don’t refreeze raw foods. The only exception is when you've prepared a dish from defrosted raw ingredients which have subsequently been thoroughly cooked.


• Once pre-cooked dishes have been thawed, don’t refreeze them - even if you've re-heated them.

• Make sure you re-heat foods very well until piping hot and try not to re-heat foods more than once.


• Wash vegetables in cold running water before using, including "ready washed" salads and vegetables as these have often been rinsed in water which contains chlorine. Remember, most veggies don't pick themselves - people have handled them.


• Wash all meat, fish and poultry in cold running water before using.  Not only have they been handled but the storage and packaging can also have an affect on them.


• Only use kitchen paper to dry foods after washing. Tea towels are more likely to carry bacteria which can be spread to the food.

• When preparing raw foods, make sure the chopping board or work surface is thoroughly washed BETWEEN preparations, especially where meat, fish and poultry is concerned. A good habit to get into is to prepare vegetables or fruit first, then items like cheese if using, and lastly fish, poultry or meat.


• If you have to cut directly on the work surface, make sure it is wiped down with clean water to get rid of detergent residue. We recommend always using a chopping board.

• Cover cuts and abrasions with a plaster


• No matter what you may have heard from noncey chefs, it is not wise to eat "pink" chicken or pork.  Be safe - cook both thoroughly.

Cleaning Up

• Thoroughly clean all surfaces, chopping boards and utensils after every use with a cleaning product. Washing up liquid for utensils and a cleaning detergent for work surfaces.


• Always rinse items you've washed up with clean water before stacking or drying with a tea towel.  Remember - if you've washed up in a sink or bowl of water, there will be lots of microscopic bits of food floating around in it, some of which will inevitably stick to your crockery and utensils.


• Keep rubbish bins covered and as far away from food preparation areas as possible and empty them regularly.

A brief word about sell-by dates


A sell-by date means just what it says  i.e. the product should be sold by XX-XX-XXXX.  More important is the "Use By" date on fresh produce. If you are on a budget, you will be tempted to ignore these. Indeed, most "use by" dates on items such as cheddar cheese and vegetables can be a little excessive. Just because a large block of cheddar has 1mm of blue mold on it, doesn't mean the whole lot should be thrown out.  Simply cut it off and throw it away.


Same goes for vegetables. OK the outer leaves of a lettuce or  cabbage may be off, but before you throw the whole thing out, start removing the outer leaves one by one. 9 times out of 10  the heart will be perfectly ok to eat. Don't forget to wash it !


However, very great care should be taken for products like meat, poultry, fish and dairy products such as cream,  even when the use-by date hasn't expired.  If you are in doubt, especially if it doesn't smell quite right, throw it out.



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