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How to Put Food Safety First as a Culinary Arts Student

These tips will help you remember some the most essential aspects of food preparation

If you’re currently studying culinary arts, part of your training will be gaining hands-on experience. Safety measures are an essential aspect of this profession. A primary objective is minimizing the chance that any food you prepare could cause a foodborne illness. Making guests sick is not on the path to a successful culinary career!

Some kitchen know-how comes down to maintaining high standards of cleanliness and sanitation for the stations, including the utensils you use. Other aspects are following guidelines about handling particular kinds of food. Here are some insider tips on how chefs make sure that dishes are high quality and emerge from the kitchen ready for patrons to consume.

Cleanliness is next to godliness

First thing’s first: Before you do anything else, take stock of all of your cooking supplies and utensils and how clean they are. Everything from cutting boards and knives to serving bowls and utensils should be thoroughly washed in soap and hot water.

Focus on your own safety

One of your primary responsibilities as a chef is to avoid accidents in the kitchen. When you focus on keeping yourself and the others safe, it supports the overall credibility of the dining establishment. Still, it’s easy to overlook some common sense aspects of equipment use when you’re learning to juggle so many factors. Keep these in mind:

  • Keep an eye on the stovetop. Leaving food cooking on a burner, unless you’re paying careful attention, is a bad idea. If it doesn’t burn—which not only ruins the dish but also wastes time and ingredients—it could catch on fire!
  • No metal in the microwave. Microwave ovens are great for quickly heating things, but a metal spoon, bowl, or cup in there is a disaster waiting to happen. The combination can cause an explosion or even a fire. Before you punch in a cooking time on that keypad, make sure you’re using microwave-safe materials (which includes glassware, stoneware, and microwave-safe plastic). Tin foil is also a no-no!
  • Read the manual. Kitchen equipment comes with instruction manuals that can tip you off to a lot of safety issues. Give them a read so you keep those particular concerns in mind.

Beware the raw meat, poultry, and seafood

Keep these away from any other food you’re preparing. Wash any cutting boards you use for raw meat, poultry, or fish (with soap and hot water) before you use it again for any other ingredient. Liquid that remains on that cutting board may seem like “natural juices,” but it can contain dangerous bacteria like salmonella. Cooking the meat will reduce the risk to the dish itself, but any other food items that might come into contact with those liquids are vulnerable. You want to be vigilant about avoiding this kind of “cross-contamination.”

Be organized about food storage

Each food has its proper place in the kitchen and an appropriate container for storage. The sooner you develop (or follow) a system, the smoother your food preparation and cleanup processes will be. Here are some guidelines for storing foods:

  • Put prepared foods that are perishable—such as dairy products, vegetables, and meat—in the fridge within 2 hours of cooking. (If the temperature in the kitchen is higher than 90°F, then refrigerate them within 1 hour of cooking).
  • Keep grains and cereals in air-tight containers.
  • Wrap meat and poultry to preserve freshness and to prevent any juices from seeping into other foods.
  • Place vegetables in glassware or sealed plastic containers.

You’ll find that over time you’ll become more comfortable in the kitchen and will take some of these steps as a matter of course. In the mean time, enjoy absorbing everything there is to know about being a chef! It can make for a fast-paced, highly satisfying career.

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At the Branford Hall Career Institute, we offer a range of professional training programs at our 11 campuses in four states. Reach out today to learn more!