Keep things fresh
Christmas in summer is perfect for sun and sand – but it also leads to food spoilage. Warm humid weather causes bacteria to grow in food that is not prepared or stored properly and can result in excess wastage or even illness. We’ve put together a checklist with some simple instructions and tips to preparing and storing food this Christmas. From the basics of keeping things clean to the correct temperature for storing different food, it can help you throw away less food and keep your family and friends healthy over the holiday period.
Smart storage and preparation checklist:
1. Keep it clean
Always wash your hands before handling food. Keep all cooking surfaces, bench tops, utensilsa nd storage containers clean to help prevent cross-contamination.
2. Separate – don’t contaminate
Meat juices often contain micro-organisms that can contaminate other foods, so use separate cutting boards for meats and store meats separately. Marinate barbeque meat in sealed containers and place on the bottom shelf in the fridge until you are ready to throw them on the barbie. This will prevent the juices dripping onto other food.
3. Cook it real good
Make sure meats like sausages, mince, poultry and rolled roasts are cooked thoroughly so the juices are clear and not pink (pink juices are OK in rare and medium steak).Once the meat is cooked, place it on a separate plate to that used for the raw meat, as the juices from the raw meat may contaminate the cooked food with bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
4. Stay in the zone
Keep food at safe temperatures to help prevent bacterial growth. Heat hot foods above 60ºC and store cold foods below 5ºC.Never leave food to thaw on the bench-top through the day – defrost frozen food in the fridge to keep it at a safe, constant temperature. Take food out of the fridge just before serving and use eskies / coolers to take chilled food to the beach, picnics and barbecues. Frozen drinks in kids lunch boxes are a great way to keep other items cool for recess and lunch.
5. Shop smart
While shopping, paying attention to preparation and storage instructions, as well as date codes on labels can help you make safer food choices. Look at the “best before” or “use by” date, especially on chilled items that are marked down for a quick sale. When selecting food, avoid swollen packs and cans with dents. Check that the seals are intact and there are no tears in the packaging. Plan to go straight home after you have finished grocery shopping so you can put perishable food away at the right temperature in the fridge or freezer as soon as you get home.
6. What about leftovers?
Big summer picnics, barbecues and festive meals often mean leftovers. Put leftovers away as soon as possible in shallow containers for fast cooling in the fridge or freezer. If chilled food has been sitting at room temperature for over two hours, throw it away (throw it out after one hour at room temperature on a hot summer day). Leftovers that have been stored properly should be eaten as soon as possible and not kept in the fridge for longer than three days. Rule of thumb – when in doubt throw it out!
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