Cooking Etiquette

Vegetables and spaghetti in pans on cooker, close-up
Keep the kitchen clean when you cook for others. Foodcollection RF/Getty Images

Etiquette is about showing respect and doing the right thing. Remember this when you invite people over for a dinner party or backyard barbecue. Whether it's a formal affair or meal served at a buffet, follow proper procedures when preparing the food.

Avoid Food Poisoning

It an awful thought, but every year approximately 87 million people suffer from cases of food poisoning. Of those who are affected, an average of 371,000 hospitalizations and an appalling 5,700 deaths occur due to improper cooking procedures.

Keeping these statistics in mind, it is wise to take care to be extremely clean and sanitary as you prepare food for others. Cooking etiquette is a serious consideration, as you would not want anyone to feed or offer you something that has been mishandled, undercooked, or prepared in less than sanitary conditions.

Food Safety Tips

Here are some courteous food safety tips that need to be considered and used as you prepare meals and parties for your guests.

  • Cook clean. There are some things about cooking that should become second nature to you. Cleanliness is a non-negotiable in food prep policy. Do what you need to do to insure your counters and cooking areas are clean. If you are using a wooden cutting board, it should be cleaned with hot soapy water and vinegar in order to make sure any bacteria has been removed. Clean your faucets and counters often with anti-bacterial spray and/or bleach. Pull your hair back or cover it with a net or cap in order to avoid getting hair into the food. If you must use the restroom while cooking, be extra vigilant about cleaning your hands and fingernails before returning to the kitchen. 
  • Keep food at the appropriate temperature. Paying attention to temperature of all food is very important when dealing with food safety. In general, your refrigerator should be set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, and your freezer should be kept at or below zero degrees. A good meat thermometer is probably one of your best kitchen investments. Remember that chicken (or any other poultry) is safe to eat after the white meat reaches a temperature of at least 170 degrees, and when dark meat reaches at least 180 degrees. When poked, poultry juices should run clear without any tinge of red or pink. When preparing beef, pork, lamb or ground meats you should cook until the meat reaches a minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Check the dates. If something in your recipe is past its recommended "se by" date, don't take a chance by using it. Even if the item looks or smells okay, these are not sufficient monitors of the food item's real condition. It will be difficult for you to tell whether an item has gone bad by using your senses, so it is best that you trust the label. If it is expired, toss it.
  • Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. When you are serving, take care to keep cold foods chilled and hot foods hot; lukewarm is not good for most foods. Try not to leave any food, whether hot or cold, out any longer than two hours. If you have any leftovers, they should be consumed or tossed within three days.

If Someone Gets Sick

In the unlikely event that someone does become sick after eating at your home, proper entertainment etiquette dictates that you take a proactive stance and make sure to accept full responsibility. If this was a large party, you will need to check with your other guests in order to advise them that one of the guests became ill after the meal. Offer a sincere apology and assist the person in any way you can.

 

Edited by Debby Mayne