Cooking Etiquette

Uncooked filled chicken on chopping board
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Etiquette is about showing respect and doing the right thing at all times, including when you cook for guests. 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. It isn't difficult to take precautions if you know what they are.

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 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.

As you cook, focus on making sure all the utensils are clean, the food is fresh, and there is no cross-contamination. For example, if you cut chicken on a cutting board, either disinfect the board or use a different one for cutting vegetables.

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 food prep policy. Do what you need to do to ensure that 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 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 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 the 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 "sell 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 has 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. You can place a container of ice beneath foods that should be cold. Use heating trays or chafing dishes to keep hot foods hot.
    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 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. Your guests will appreciate your willingness to make sure they are taken care of.


Edited by Debby Mayne