Cooking and eating flavorful foods at home, safely

Food safety goes beyond public food establishments. Keep the food you prepare at home fresh and safe.

Cooking healthy and flavorful meals and snacks is a good goal for people who cook for themselves or family members. National Nutrition Month reminds people to enjoy the taste of eating right. Michigan State University Extension recommends that people follow food safety recommendations when preparing food. Con Agra Home food safety program and nutrition expert Beth Thayer recommend the following food safety tips:

Preparing foods with nutrition, flavor and safety in mind

  • Whether they are organic or conventionally grown, wash all fresh fruits and vegetables with cool tap water. Avoid soaking fruits and vegetables as you wash because some nutrients dissolve in water.
  • Leave edible skins on vegetables and fruits such as carrots, potatoes or pears, and trim away as little skin as possible. Most vitamins and minerals are found in the outer leaves, skin and areas just below the skin, not in the center. Peels also are natural barriers that help protect against nutrient loss.
  • Cut vegetables that need to be cooked longer into larger pieces. With fewer surfaces exposed, fewer vitamins are lost.

Cooking for nutrition, flavor and safety

  • Overcooking meat can detract from its flavor. Use a food thermometer to determine when meat has reached a safe minimum internal temperature and to prevent overcooking. Cooking foods to a safe temperature is the only reliable way to determine the doneness of cooked meats, poultry, egg dishes and leftovers.
  • Cook vegetables or fruits in a small amount of water, or steam them in a vegetable steamer, covered pot or a microwave oven. Steaming retains nutrients and there’s a flavor advantage too: Unless they are overcooked, vegetables retain the color and tender-crisp qualities that make them appealing.

Storing foods for safety and flavor

  • Keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below to slow bacteria growth that spoils food and ruins flavor.
  • Store opened packages of dry foods, such as rice and pasta, in dry, airtight containers. This will keep out insects and rodents and keep food from obtaining odors.
  • Leave food in its original wrapping unless the package is torn. If you have to rewrap, seal storage containers well to prevent moisture loss and absorption of other odors. Wrapping raw meat, poultry and fish in separate plastic bags also keeps raw meat juices from contaminating other foods.
  • When freezing, pack food items in freezer bags or airtight containers. Squeeze air from bags before sealing and leave some space in containers in case foods expand. If moisture escapes, frozen food can become dry, tough and tasteless and may develop freezer burn.

Incorporating home food safety when preparing, cooking and storing foods can ensure that the food you eat and serve are not only flavorful but safe to eat.

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