Posts Tagged ‘Food safety’

Refrigerator temperature: What temperature should the freezer be set at?

January 2, 2012

Refrigerator temperatures come automatically set to factory recommendations, which are the proper refrigerator temperature of 37 degrees and the ideal freezer temperature of zero degrees.

These are generally the correct temperatures, but according to Whirlpool Corp., your freezer is set at the correct temperature when the ice cream is firm.

If the freezer is too warm or too cold, first check the air vents to make sure that nothing’s blocking circulation. Then adjust the temperature up or down one setting and allow a full 24 hours for the temperature to adjust.

One level is equal to about 1 degree of temperature, so remember: the higher the freezer temperature, the faster your frozen foods lose their quality. However, colder temperatures also could dry foods out, so try to keep the freezer at the recommended zero degrees.

>>Read more tips on proper frozen food storage

Today is the last day to safely eat Thanksgiving leftovers

November 28, 2011

Because leftovers only remain safe to eat for four days, you’re going to want to eat up all your turkey, stuffing and gravy by Monday.

(The importance of Thanksgiving leftovers as immortalized in pop culture by  Friends Moistmaker episode)

Ideally, you should freeze all leftovers as soon as possible, but if you throw the rest in freezer-safe bags or containers, it will be good to eat for another six months.

Actually, food technically remains safe to eat forever if it’s frozen, it just loses flavor and moisture.

The USDA wrote these guidelines for safely reheating stored leftovers:

  • When reheating leftovers, be sure they reach 165° F. Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the food. Reheat sauces, soups and gravies by bringing them to a rolling boil. Cover leftovers to reheat. This retains moisture and ensures that food will heat all the way through.
  • Thaw frozen leftovers safely in the refrigerator, cold water or the microwave oven. When thawing leftovers in a microwave, continue to heat it until it reaches 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
  • Any leftover “leftovers” thawed by the cold water method or in the microwave should be reheated to 165 °F before refreezing.
  • In a real hurry? It is safe to reheat frozen leftovers without thawing, either in a saucepan or microwave (in the case of a soup or stew) or in the oven or microwave (for example, casseroles and combination meals). Reheating will take longer than if the food is thawed first, but it is safe to do when time is short.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly never knew to reheat my sauces to a full boil…oops.
Make sure to occasionally stir foods when microwaving them, because foods won’t heat evenly (especially if you don’t have a turntable) and cold spots will develop in which bacteria hasn’t been properly killed.

Is it safe to microwave foods?

September 12, 2011

Nobunny should ever put metal in the microwave!

Despite the sensational headline, yes, it is safe to microwave foods.

But some methods of microwave cooking and reheating can be harmful or downright dangerous.

This becomes especially important knowledge for college students now away from the watchful eye that kept them from blowing up the house for 18 years. I stopped flammables from going in a microwave more than once as an undergrad.

For the rest of you, here are some basic DOs or DON’Ts (adapted from the USDA and Food Network) :

DON’T put metal in a microwave…ever. You will cause sparking and potential damage. This includes aluminum foil and those portable coffee mugs.

DO microwave by number. Avoid plastics No. 3, No. 6 and No. 7, as these could leach chemicals into your foods. Plastic wrap and Styrofoam can also melt. Transfer to a different container and use a glass lid to cover the food.

DON’T heat acidic foods, like tomato sauce, in plastic containers.

DO choose containers made of glass or ceramic or plastic that’s made for microwaving.

DON’T cook large cuts of meat on full power. Instead, use medium power (50%) for longer periods to ensure heat reaches the center without overcooking outer areas.

DO stir or rotate food halfway to eliminate cold spots where harmful bacteria can survive.

 

Any others I missed?

5 ways to preserve food longer

May 12, 2011

With the opening of the Mill City Farmers Market last weekend and the start of many people’s summer CSA shares, the perennial topic of food storage becomes fresh again (see how I did that?).

Numerous ways to extend the life of fresh fruit, veggies, meat and dairy exist, but here are the 5 I could think of.

What do you do to try to make your food last longer?

1. Use your crisper

Those clear drawers in your fridge aren’t just for convenience. Many models allow you adjust the humidity of your crisper drawers to suit their contents. Consult your use & care manual for specifics on your model, but in general, set humidity to high for green, leafy vegetables and low for fruits and vegetables with skins.

2. Pick your spot

Brands might create the perfect space for gallon-jug storage on your refrigerator door, but consider how quickly you will use highly perishable foods before storing them here. Why? Consider the temperature fluctuations of this region of the refrigerator.

If you go through a gallon of milk every couple days, then maybe it doesn’t matter, but those of use who just use a sprinkle in our coffee should definitely select a cooler spot, like the back of the fridge, which is less affected when the door opens.

Accordingly, produce like broccoli, asparagus and apples benefit from colder temperatures located near the rear, while corn and berries — for example — benefit from the warmest spot in the refrigerator, so choose those for the front.

3. Use a paper towel to keep your greens…green

I love making big salads, but we all know that greens (especially leftovers) quickly become yellows and browns.

I arrange washed greens between paper towels to absorb excess moisture and seal them in punctured plastic bags. I’m not sure how “official” this is, but it’s allowed me to eat salad leftovers for two days before.

4. Don’t pass gas

Ethylene gas, that is. Foods like apples, peaches and pears produce ethylene, a gas that kick-starts ripening, which can cause premature aging in some fruits and damage in others. Avoid storing ethylene-producing foods near others sensitive to it (see list here) or keep them in a plastic bag to contain the gas.

5. Know what NOT to refrigerate

Sometimes the refrigerator can do more harm than good — as in the case of avocados, bananas, tomatoes, pineapples, mangoes, potatoes and squash — which should be stored at room temperature. Cold temperatures can dehydrate and damage these foods.

Plus, I think that refrigerating tomatoes sucks all the flavor out, doesn’t it?

Power out refrigerator tips: What to do when the electricity goes out

January 5, 2011

Rule No. 1: Don't open your refrigerator or freezer.

Here in Minnesota, we generally suffer a few power outages each winter season. But when the power goes out, your refrigerator is not cooling. So what should you do with all your food?

1. Call the power company
Find out how long the power will be out.

2. If the power outage is less than 24 hours:
Keep the doors shut on both the refrigerator and freezer compartments to keep food cold or frozen. If you’re experiencing a refrigerator power outage for more than 2 hours, you might want to pack dairy and meats into coolers (Styrofoam is fine) filled with ice, says the CDC.

3. If the power will be out for more than 24 hours:
Add 2 lbs of dry ice in the freezer for every cubic foot of freezer space, which will keep the food frozen for two to four days, according to appliance-maker Whirlpool Corp. Otherwise, you’re going to have to eat all that perishable food. Or try canning the food, if you know how.

Thought it seems counter intuitive, a full freezer stays cold longer than a partially filled one and a freezer full of meat stays cold longer than a freezer full of baked goods. A half-full freezer will keep food safe for 24 hours, and a full freezer will keep food safe for 48 hours, according to the CDC.

If food contains ice crystals, you can refreeze it, although the quality and flavor may be affected. Test meats to ensure the temperature hasn’t risen to 40 degrees. Use your gut. If it looks like it’s in rough shape, toss it.


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