Proper food handling and storage at home
The easiest way to safely store food is to keep cold food cold and keep hot food hot. Bacteria growth is significantly reduced and is said to lay dormant in the colder temperatures of a refrigerator or freezer, or at temperatures hotter than 141°F. Bacteria thrive between 41°F and 140°F, a region known as the “Food Temperature Danger Zone.”
Wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
Wash countertops with warm soapy water after preparing each food item.
Cut and prepare raw meat, fish and poultry on a separate cutting board from that used to cut ready to eat vegetables, fruit or other foods.
Properly cleaning kitchen surfaces will help eliminate bacteria and reduce your risk of foodborne illness. For added protection, use a bleach solution to sanitize. Mix 5 mL (1 tsp) of household bleach to 750 mL (3 cups) of water in a labeled spray bottle.
Always place cooked food on a clean plate. Do not use the same plates for raw and cooked meat, poultry, fish or seafood because cross-contamination can occur and this can cause foodborne illness.
Never leave raw meat, poultry, fish, seafood or leftovers out on the counter for longer than two hours.
Food that has been defrosted in the microwave should be cooked immediately after thawing.
Bring gravies, soups and sauces to a full, rolling boil and stir during the process.
Wash your reusable grocery bags frequently, especially if you are carrying raw meat, poultry, fish or seafood.
Always remember to cook raw meat, poultry and seafood to a safe internal temperature to avoid foodborne illness.
If you’ve used utensils to handle raw food, don’t use them again until you’ve cleaned them thoroughly in the dishwasher or in warm, soapy water.
Remove the food from the heat and insert the digital food thermometer through the thickest part of the meat, all the way to the middle. The thermometer must not be touching any bones.
Place raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator so raw juices won’t drip onto other food.
You can cool leftovers quickly by placing them in shallow containers. Refrigerate as soon as possible or within two hours.
Make sure your refrigerator is set to 4° C (40°F) or lower and your freezer at -18°C (0° F) or lower. This will keep your food out of the temperature danger zone, (between 4° C (40°F) and 60°C (140°F)), where bacteria can grow quickly
Defrost your raw meat, poultry, fish or seafood in the refrigerator, in a microwave or immersed in cold water. Don’t refreeze thawed food!
Don’t pack your refrigerator with food – cold air must circulate to keep food safe. Check the temperature in your refrigerator using a thermometer.
Marinate meat in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Do not use leftover marinade from the raw food on the cooked food.
Storing meat in the freezer
Often times families buy products in bulk and store them in the freezer until needed. Sometimes products are stored for longer periods of time and we are always asked how long a product can be stored frozen before it should be consumed. The following charts show guidelines to follow when storing frozen meat. Protein can be stored for longer periods than listed on the chart however, these times are to ensure that the product is consumed before the flavor and texture deteriorates.
Recommended freezer storage times for meat Beef Ground and stew meat 2 to 3 months Roasts and steaks 6 to 12 months Pork Ground sausage 1 to 2 months Roasts and chops 3 to 6 months Pork & ham, smoked 1 to 3 months Ham, fully cooked 1 to 2 months Bacon, sliced Up to 1 month Poultry Whole bird 3 months Pieces 6 to 12 months
Proper wrapping to seal the meat from the outside air is the best protection against freezer burn.
Important tips to keep in mind to safely prepare your food for cooking.