If you watch any cooking show you will see that a key factor in producing a successful and timely dish is a very well organized kitchen where everything is stored so as to be easily and quickly accessible.
There is also a food safety aspect to a well-organized kitchen. This concerns primarily minimizing the potential for cross contamination (mixing or contaminating ready-to-eat or cooked food with raw foods) and the possibility of errors or mistakes in the cooking process including using the wrong products, wrong measurements, etc. A well-organized, uncluttered kitchen also allows easy cleaning and access for prevention and harborage of vermin (cockroaches, rodents, and food infesting insects), and decreases the likelihood that you will pass the foods’ ‘Use by’ or ‘Sell by’ dates.
Here are some things you can do to keep the food storage, processing and cooking process running efficiently and safely:
o Rotate dry and canned food products. Put the newest products to the back of the cabinet and push the older or oldest products to the front.
o If the product does not have a “Use by” date, take a black ink marker and note the purchase date somewhere on the label.
o High-acid canned food such as tomatoes, grapefruit, and pineapple can be stored unopened on the shelf for 12 to 18 months. Low-acid canned foods such as meat, poultry, fish, and most vegetables will keep two to five years-if the unopened can remains in good condition and has been stored in a cool, clean and dry place. Discard cans that are dented, leaking, bulging or rusted.
o For utensils and equipment, store like items together. In other words, store such things as baking utensils together, and separate from cooking utensils. The same goes for the pots and pans and so on. This allows your mind to only have to remember the grouped storage area when needing a certain item and not a specific spot on a rack or in a drawer.
o If you need to remove a food, spice, condiment or chemical from its original package or container to a new container or zipped-locked bag, take a marking pen and write on the new container in large letters the common name of the product. This is especially important for powders, sugars, salts, spices and other dry products that are not easily identifiable. It may be obvious to you but not to someone else in your household. Restaurants are actually required to label all containers in the storage areas to prevent employees from using the wrong product or ingredient.
o Chemicals, household cleaners and other poisonous substances need to be stored in their own, preferably lower cabinet to minimize the potential of contaminating any food products.
o Control vermin in your own kitchen by sealing or caulking any cracks or small openings especially where plumbing comes out of the wall, and at wall, shelving and cabinet junctures.
UTENSIL AND EQUIPMENT RECOMMENDATIONS
Here are some basic and inexpensive equipment and utensil recommendations that provide excellent tools in the fight against contamination and growth of bacteria in your kitchen and on your food:
o Color-coded plastic cutting boards or cutting plastic surfaces. Red for raw red meats, Yellow for raw poultry, Tan for raw seafoods, Green for fruits and vegetables, Blue for cooked or non-cooked ready-to-eat foods and white for dairy. This will help enormously is preventing cross contamination – again where raw foods contaminate cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
o Get yourself a good instant-read, digital probe thermometer that is sensitive at the tip. You will use it often and on everything you cook.
o An easily readable thermometer for your refrigerator and place it in front for easy reading and in the warmest part. Set you refrigerator temperature so your thermometer stays approximately 40° F.
o An oven-safe probe thermometer with an easily readable dial or digital readout.
o Liquid soap in a dispenser for handwashing at your kitchen sink. Recent studies have shown that antibacterial soaps have no more likelihood of preventing illnesses or removing more microorganisms than regular soap. What’s important is the action of thoroughly scrubbing under running water for at least 20 seconds to loosen oil and grime where the bacteria hide, and washing them down the drain.
o Paper towel dispenser. Minimize or eliminate the use of reusable cloth towels. After one use they become perfect breeding grounds for bacteria to grow to large numbers while they hang on the rack or lie on your kitchen counter. Disposable single use paper towels eliminate this risk
o Shallow pans or containers to store foods in the refrigerator. You want to spread that thick soup, stew, etc., into shallow pans allowing it more surface area for more rapid cooling.