Essential Food Safety Tips for Home Cooking



Food Handling Safety Tips Every Home Cook Should Know

By Hauslane ∙ 5 mins read

Proper food handling is more important than you might think. Unsafe food handling causes an estimated 48 million cases of foodborne illness each year in the United States. That means that one out of every six Americans experiences food poisoning, leading to approximately 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year. Some people are at greater risk for foodborne illnesses, including pregnant women, children, the elderly, and those with cancer, diabetes, HIV, AIDS, autoimmune diseases, etc. Symptoms from foodborne bacteria usually occur within one to three days but may occur 20 minutes after consumption or up to six weeks later. These symptoms include gastrointestinal distress, body aches, headaches, and abdominal pain.

No one wants to get sick after enjoying a meal. Taking steps for proper food handling at home can keep you and your family safe. Here’s how to do just that.

Food Safety Handling Tips Every Home Cook Should Know

Wash Your Hands the Right Way

The pandemic has reminded us how important it is to wash your hands on a regular basis. Still, most of us could use a refresher on how to wash our hands the right way. Use soap to lather up and scrub your hands, between your fingers, under your nails, and up to your elbows for 20 seconds. Rinse your hands and dry thoroughly with a clean towel. As for when to wash your hands, here’s the rundown:

Before eating or preparing food

During and after preparing food

After using the restroom

After changing diapers

After touching trash

After blowing your nose, sneezing, or coughing

After handling animal food or waste

After handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, eggs

Before and after caring for a sick person

After handling raw meat, poultry, seafood, eggs

After handling animal food or waste

Before and after touching or caring for a cut or wound

After touching your eyes, nose, or mouth

After working or playing outside

After petting an animal

After using public transportation

Before and after caring for someone who is sick

Before and after treating a cut or wound

Food Safety Handling Tips Every Home Cook Should Know

Know What to Wash

Okay, you know you should wash your hands, but what else? Be sure to wash any utensils and cutting boards after use with hot, soapy water. This is especially important if these items have come in contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs. Likewise, wash surfaces and countertops after a meal. You should also wash fruits and vegetables under water. Never wash meat, poultry, eggs, or seafood. Doing so will only spread germs around your kitchen.

Food Safety Handling Tips Every Home Cook Should Know

Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill

Organizations such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise following the “Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill” process to maintain food safety.

Food Safety Handling Tips Every Home Cook Should Know


Wash your hands before preparing food, as described above.

Clean any cooking utensils and items that will be used during the food preparation process.

Food Safety Handling Tips Every Home Cook Should Know


Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate. In other words, don’t cross-contaminate.

Food Safety Handling Tips Every Home Cook Should Know


Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of dishes. Each type of food has its own specific internal temperature ranges that make it safe.

145°F: steaks, chops, ham, lamb, veal, roasts, fish, and shellfish

160°F: eggs and ground meats

165°F: poultry, leftovers

Check your microwave’s wattage to ensure you are reheating food properly. Allow food to stand for a few minutes to allow it to cook more thoroughly.

Food Safety Handling Tips Every Home Cook Should Know


Make sure your refrigerator’s temperature is below 40°F, and your freezer is at 0°F.

Do not leave food at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Bacteria multiplies quickly at 40°F and 140°F.

Thaw food in the refrigerator, in cold water in a bowl, or in the microwave. Don’t thaw food on the counter because it encourages bacteria growth. Follow proper thawing guidelines.

Planning to cook outdoors soon? Learn how to grill safely.