Monitoring food temperatures is a great start to a healthier kitchen. Keeping food at the proper temperature prevents the growth of bacteria in food. The first step is making sure that food is kept cold. Most new two door refrigerators feature a digital temperature gauge. If your fridge is not that fancy, you can purchase an analog thermometer in the kitchen accessories aisle of most stores. The desired temperature for your refrigerator is 41 degrees or less. The airflow in most refrigerators can vary, so be sure to place your thermometer on the warmest shelf to insure that all the food remains at the correct temperature. Most refrigerators have adjustment knobs at the top of the refrigerated portion to lower the temperature.
The second step is using proper cooking temperatures. With the recent egg recall, most home chefs have to rethink the way in which they prepare eggs. To ensure that you and your family do not contract salmonella from eggs, you should cook your eggs to 155 degrees or splurge for pasteurized eggs. Pasteurized eggs are treated to kill bacteria prior to packaging and typically have a red stamp. The best way to check your food temperatures is through the use of a digital temperature which can be purchased at local stores. For use with your thermometer, I recommend a box of alcohol wipes to disinfect the thermometer before and after each use. Prior to removing an item for the heating source, place the thermometer into the center of the product and wait for the temperature to stabilize. A list of standard cooking temperatures is provided below.
Fish 145 degrees
Chicken, Turkey 165 degrees
Pork 145 degrees
Beef 145 degrees
Ground Meat 155 degree
Stuffed Meats, Exotics 165 degrees
The most important step is properly cooling your cooked items. In most household after the cooking is complete, the burner is turned off and the food is allowed to sit, sometimes for hours at a time. During this time, the temperature of the food lowers to the point where bacterial growth is no longer prevented, and spores (eggs of bacteria) which can survive the cooking process, grow into mature bacteria which reproduce. If you do not wish to takes the steps involved to properly cool a dish, make sure to discard all leftovers after a meal. To properly cool an item, remove it from the dish in which it was prepared and place it into a shallow container. Place the shallow container in the freezer. After two hours, check the temperature of the food to ensure it is below 70 degrees and then place it in the refrigerator to cool to 41 degrees. I own a two door refrigerator and I reserve the top portion of my freezer for cooling. I typically place a sheet of wax paper on a cookie sheet and spread my cooked item evenly over the sheet before placing it in the freezer.