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From the Experts: Top 7 Kitchen Tips for the Holidays

Love to cook? Maintaining a clean and food-safe kitchen will help keep foodborne illnesses away.

’Tis the season to cozy up with comfort food or invite guests over for hearty holiday meals. “Top Chef” caveat: Cooking can be harmful to your health if you aren’t doing it the right way. During prep, touching the bacteria in food can spread it to other surfaces and potentially cause illness for you and your friends and family members.

Magnifying this risk is the fact that the kitchen is already one of the germiest places in your home. Cutting boards. Sinks. Sponges. All of these are hot spots where nasty, germy things lurk and can cause sickness. The good news is that maintaining a clean kitchen, especially while you are cooking, doesn’t have to be complicated, according to our NSF experts. Here is everything you need to know about keeping your kitchen clean and sanitized while being your own “Top Chef.”

  • Divide and Conquer

    Keep raw foods and cooked foods separate during preparation.
  • Give It the One-Two Punch

    Simply wiping or rinsing surfaces is not enough to kill harmful bacteria that may have spread around your kitchen while you were preparing food. Cleaning and then sanitizing is the way to stop foodborne illness in the kitchen, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • Soap It Up

    Good sanitation practices in the kitchen start with washing your hands frequently with soap and water. Do this before touching ready-to-eat food and after touching raw meat, especially when you wipe your nose, sneeze or cough.
  • Sanitize Your Cooking Space

    This step will help kill any remaining bacteria. You can use many different sanitizers or make your own solution with one tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Pour or spray this on surfaces and leave for one to three minutes, then wipe with a paper towel.
  • Sponge Bobbing

    It’s also essential to clean your sponges. Put your wet sponge in the microwave for two minutes. When in doubt, throw it out.
  • Cloths, Towels and Rags, Oh My!

    Sometimes it’s better to use dishcloths, towels or cloth rags to wipe up spills or clean surfaces. Sanitize them by washing them on your clothes washer’s sanitizing cycle or with bleach. Replace washable linens every one to two days.
  • Cut It Up

    Because you are using cutting boards for many different foods, it is crucial to use separate cutting boards, utensils, etc., so they don’t cross-contaminate raw foods with ready-to-eat stuff.

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