Food Preparation and Handling Tips

Food preparation and proper handling of food in the kitchen is a chief concern when it comes to cooking dinner. By doing everything the right way, you greatly minimize the chance of getting a food borne illness caused by mishandling food during the preparation stage of cooking.

Food Preparation

From the moment you purchase food at the store or market, and even while it's at the grocer, food has a tendency of picking up microscopic "bugs" along the way. These tiny organisms are either hitching a ride to a more suitable host (you) or using the food as their source of nutrition.

These organism, better known as bacteria, viruses, and germs, don't mean to make you sick - they are just living their lives just like you. But when they come in contact with the human body, they can really mess you up inside and out.

Protecting yourself and your family from these "bugs" should be a big concern from the time you buy your ingredients until you cook the them for dinner or any other meal. There are a few things you can do to minimize the risk of food poisoning by handling your food properly and preparing your food in a safe environment while getting ready to cook dinner.

Tips for Proper Food Preparation and Handling

The following tips for food preparation and handling will help lower the chance of your food getting contaminated with sickness causing germs before you start cooking.

NOTE: There are no perfect foods out there. Everything has a certain degree of bacteria and germs on it. You will use these tips to minimize contamination while cooking will kill off the rest.

1. Choose Your Foods Wisely. When you are going through the isles of the store or market looking for the perfect ingredients for dinner, you need to do a thorough inspection on every piece of perishable food you intend on buying. I call this the "Three Senses Check".

First, use your eyes to see anything wrong with the food. Look for rot, larger bugs, mold, bruising, and color. If it looks healthy, it is good to go.

Second, use your nose to smell the food. If something is going bad, you can usually smell a fowl odor coming from it. Even if it looks perfect, if it smells bad, it probably is. It is probably stored with many others just like it. If one of them is rotten and sitting next to this apparent good one, bacteria and germs can be on the good one as well.

Lastly, use your hands and fingers to touch the food. Fruits and vegetables should be firm to the touch. If it feels excessively soft and mushy, it's probably very ripe or already bad. If it is very ripe, it more likely has more bacteria and germs on it from sitting longer.

2. Proper Food Storage. As soon as you get home from the store with your groceries, you need to properly store them so they don't spoil. Perishable foods such as fruits, vegetables, and meats all have storage recommendations to keep them as safe as possible from organisms that will make you sick. If food preparation isn't going to happen in a day or two, consider freezing it or vacuum sealing it until it will be used.

3. Use Proper Food Preparation Techniques. To help lower the risk of food contamination while you are getting all of your ingredients ready for cooking, you should consider all of these preparation tips:

  • Clear food preparation area before you begin preparing your foods. Always clean the preparation surface with a disinfectant and then go back over it with a clean towel damp with plain water to remove disinfectant chemicals from the surface.

  • Before using a vegetable or fruit that hasn't already been prepared, you should always wash it with cool water and a produce brush. Do not use soaps or produce cleaning agents as they can add chemicals to the food.

  • When removing meat from a container, carefully drain off excess fluids that may have accumulated in the container by pouring it directly down the sink drain. Be careful not to splash any of the liquids as you are pouring because they can contaminate other parts of your kitchen.

  • Never wash meats that have excess liquid on them from packaging. The water may splash and carry contaminates throughout the kitchen.

  • If you are getting ready to cook eggs, wash them with water and a brush to get any contaminates off of the shell.

  • Some fruits and vegetables come "ready to eat" as labeled. Unless a package containing these foods says "ready to eat", always wash and peal them.

  • Never cut meat and vegetables on the same cutting surface.

  • Never use the same utensils for a meat and vegetable that has not been cooked unless you wash the utensil thoroughly before use.

  • Always wash your hands before and after touching meat or vegetables with soap and hot water and dry them with a paper towel, not a dish towel.

  • If you are defrosting meat or other food items in a microwave, cook it right away. It should not sit out after being defrosted.

  • Defrost meats, vegetables, fruits, and seafood in the refrigerator at a maximum 41 degrees or in cold water (below 70 degrees). Never leave meat to defrost on the counter.

  • Always marinade meats in the fridge, never out on the counter.

  • Never reuse marinades that were used to flavor meat. If you intend on using any of the marinade while cooking, be sure to set some aside before placing the meat in with the marinade.

  • Use the proper knife that is adequately sharpened to cut your foods. Don't use a butter knife to cut an onion.

  • Do not preheat a pot of pan without oil or liquid in it. This can damage it.

  • Preheat a grill to a temperature that will burn off everything on the grill grate, then carefully scrape the grates to ensure they are clean and free of debris. Change out grill brushes every month of frequent use.

  • Do not add cooked foods to the same plate or bowl raw food was in unless it has been cleaned with hot water and dish soap.

  • Make sure your food preparation is all done in the same place so you don't contaminate several areas of your kitchen.

  • Never refreeze seafood after it has been cooked. If it smells like ammonia, do not eat it or serve it.

These helpful food preparation tips should help keep you kitchen germ free throughout the preparation phase of dinner and any other meal. If you have questions about anything discussed or have additional questions, concerns, or would like to add something to this list, please contact me about food preparation and I will research and address your concerns. is another great source of food safety information and will put you in contact with other government agencies that can help you maintain a healthy and sanitary kitchen environment.

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