Kitchen Smarts – being a ‘food-safe’ foodie.


Being safe with our food on a domestic level is a topic I don’t see raised very much, so being a professional  cheffy bloke who has to deal with this everyday,  I’d like to discuss some ways we can be ‘food safe’ at  home.

If we’re all going to be great home-cooking foodie types, we need to get this right and pass it on to the kids too. You don’t want to make them, yourself or your friends sick. Food poisoning  can be very unpleasant  (to say the least) and can cost you money in medicines, doctor bills or time taken off work.Keep-Calm

I feel there is a common perception that food borne illness is something that only comes from dodgy take-aways and late night kebab shops. Not true. We need to look at our home environment first. I’m not trying to be alarmist here, on the contrary, if we’re all aware of some basic principles then there’s nothing to worry about.

High risk foods, cross contamination, improper cleaning of plates, equipment and work surfaces, ignoring correct temperatures can all lead to bacteria developing and making us unwell. Pretty boring stuff  but you want to be confident you are serving up tasty food and great memories, not  stomach cramps and runny bottoms. Or worse.

Let’s start with the Temperature Danger Zone. In Australia this is between 5*c and 60*c. It is the ideal temperature for bacteria to grow and multiply and a great place to avoid storing ‘high risk’ foods.TDZ

The 2/4 Hour Rule. For high risk foods in the TDZ this is an easy go to rule of thumb. 2hrs in the TDZ and food can be chilled for later use. Between 2 and 4 hrs food must be consumed or discarded, but not kept for later use. After 4hrs the food should be discarded. If in doubt, throw it out.2-4hrIf you’re sending kid to school with, say, a roast chicken sandwich, encourage them to eat that at first lunch. Try and use an insulated lunch bag (they’re every where these days, thankfully) and pack a frozen juice or water or yoghurt in with it. Please avoid the ‘It was good enough for me in my day’ mantra. So was sunburn. Your ham sandwich may have sat sweating in 30* heat until lunch time along with everyone else’s and yes, you turned out just fine. Doesn’t mean your kids should be at the same risk  we were. This NSW Gov link explains further.

Re-heating Foods – Last night’s curry? Tastes better the next day huh, just make sure you get it hot. Quickly, and kept at temp for a couple of minutes before serving. Microwaves are fine but uneven, so stir or at least turn at intervals to distribute the heat thoroughly. Check your  food is hot in the middle. Avoid re-re-heating. Taking food home from a restaurant? That 2/4 hour rule began when you were served the food, not when you left the restaurant.


A fridge thermometer and a probe thermometer for internal temperatures.

Refrigeration – To ensure your fridge is keeping correct temperatures, use a fridge thermometer. Or keep a glass of water up the back to take the temperature from. Don’t just trust the dial. Your refrigerator needs to be below 5*c and the freezer below -15*c for effective storage.

Made a big pot of spag bol to freeze for emergencies? Freeze it in small batches, otherwise your home freezer can’t cope. Try this snap lock bag method…..


By pushing a snap lock bag under water just as you close it, the air is forced out. Start with the seal 3/4’s closed before submerging and stop before the water can get in.Great for saving space, and most importantly for getting to the right temp quickly.

Equipment – Cleaning your cooking equipment thoroughly (including what you eat off and with also) is paramount. Use very hot water and a cleaning agent. And elbow grease. scrubbingHome dishwashers are great, as long as they’re heating to an adequate temperature. High 70’s or 80’s at some point in the cycle. Make sure everything is dry before storing. Clean out that school lunch box frequently. Kid has to do hers everyday or else.Lunchbox

Cross Contamination – Raw and cooked foods don’t belong together in the fridge. Or on your cutting board. Last night’s roast can’t come into contact with the raw chicken for tonight’s stir fry.  Use air tight, leak proof containers. Cover your food properly and avoid storing raw above cooked in the fridge. Wash your cutting boards thoroughly. Avoid mixing old with new. Last week’s leftover pumpkin soup mixed with this weeks ham and pea soup may seem innocent but is potentially disastrous. 9  out of 10 times you’ll probably be fine. Do you want to put your family or yourself at risk?

High Risk Foods – Rather than listing everything here, I’ve provided a link to a University of Warwick page. Not being lazy, but I’m a tradie and this is a University, they just explain it quite succinctly. There are surprises here for some people. Cooked rice for example is one that  you may not expect to see on that list. It seems innocent enough, but it provides all the qualities for bacterial growth in spades. Warmth and moisture mainly. It’s so often these foods, the ones that seem harmless that can catch us out. It may seem more obvious to be careful with other foods, raw seafood etc.. so I recommend clicking on this link for a brief run down. Thank you U.W

Personal Hygiene – Well someone had to say it. Wash your hands thoroughly before you start preparing food, after you’ve just ‘ducked off to the loo’, after you’ve smoked cigarettes (if you smoke while you’re cooking with your  kids around, I’m sorry, but you can’t be in our club), before serving or eating food. Latex gloves are great if you’re handling raw chicken or seafood, just take them off before you handle anything else. There are all sorts of personal sanitisers on offer these days. Frankly I don’t know how I feel about that. A step to far? Who knows. Scrubbing with hot soap water and drying properly afterwards does the trick anyway. It’s also a good idea to put your long hair up.hygiene

We hope this has given an insight into the realm of food safety and inspired you to being a ‘food safe’ foodie. Of course if you think you or anyone you know is showing signs of a food-borne illness (there are many and incubation periods differ), check in with a medical professional.

For a full run down from Food Standards Australia, check out the link below. These are the guidelines we adhere to in professional situations. It’s hardly a page turner but informative if nothing else.

Happy (and safe) cooking,


Leave a comment


  1. Anita Colbier

     /  May 28, 2015

    This has got to be one of my favourite posts yet. As someone who doesn’t (choose to) cook very often, I find these tips interesting. I doubt many people would know all of this, but as you say, it’s very important. Especially for kids to learn.
    Also, Kid looks absolutely beautiful in these photos!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Anita. It’s so important and easy to overlook. I wanted to do something a little different to our regular formula, so I’m happy you appreciate that. Gotta write what you know huh. And yes, Kid is lovely, thanks.


  2. I wash my hands, boards, work surfaces and knives numerous times while preparing food. I see others that seem to not bother too much about it. They are taking huge risks. Also, if I am preparing oriental dishes that need lots of chopping, I tend to start with the aromatics, then the vegetables and slice the meat last. That way, I can get away with minimal washing. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve no doubt that you are meticulous Conor and I’d happily eat in your kitchen anyday. It’s easy to get complacent with this stuff, or think it’s something that just happens to ther people. There’s plenty more we could have touched on, defrosting properly for example, and we will one day. I don’t like to feel like I’m lecturing though. Kid and I had fun this week, and a well earned break from the stove. We’ll be back on next week though. Thanks Conor.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The Year Of Cooking Congruously. | Cook And Kid

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