Safe Food Prep Dos & Don’ts

Don’t let food poisoning ruin your party—follow these tips before you get cooking.

By Reader's Digest Editors

Proper food preparation is always important, but it’s especially critical in the summer when warm temperatures inside and out can turn the ingredients for a barbecue into a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

Don’t let food poisoning ruin your party—follow these tips before you get cooking:

DON’T thaw food at room temperature. Germs and bacteria that can cause food poisoning thrive as the temperature of food increases.

DO thaw food in the refrigerator, microwave, or under cold water.

DON’T wash poultry or meat before preparing it. You’ll spread potentially harmful bacteria all over your kitchen.

DO wash your hands with soap and warm water before preparing food and after handling meat, chicken, eggs, and seafood.

DON’T rely on taste or smell to determine whether food has gone bad. The bacteria that causes food poisoning is tasteless and odorless and even a small amount can make you sick.

DO toss anything you suspect might have gone bad.

Plus: How Long Can You Store Meat in the Fridge or Freezer?

DON’T allow food to cool before refrigerating. Room temperature food is like an unlimited buffet for bacteria.

DO refrigerate food as soon as possible, and always within two hours of cooking.

DON’T marinate meat, fish, or poultry at room temperature. Remember the unlimited buffet?

DO marinate in the refrigerator and always cook poultry, meat, seafood, and eggs thoroughly to destroy dangerous bacteria.


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