Before you defrost tonight's dinner, you may want to think about where you're defrosting it. NY1's Jill Urban tackles this and other common kitchen practices in her latest Healthy Living report.
Do you wash chicken before you cook it? Do you wash peeled fruit before you eat it? And where do you defrost your meat?
We all have the best intentions, but you may be alarmed to discover that some common kitchen practices could actually make you sick.
Janet McCracken is the test kitchen director for Every Day With Rachael Ray Magazine. NY1 asked her to help debunk some common food safety myths, such as, should we wash chicken before we cook it?
"People wash their chicken because they think they're going to be washing off all the germs and getting it all clean. What they're actually really doing is spreading the germs around because when the water hits the chicken, it splashes, gets all over your sink, all over your counters," McCracken says.
She says cooking the chicken should kill any of those germs, so skip that step.
Another big misconception is that it's OK to leave meat on the counter to defrost. It's not. If you leave it on the counter, you could encounter a food-borne illness.
"It needs to thaw evenly," McCracken says. "If you leave it on the counter, the outside is going to be thawing quickly, and it's going to be at room temperature for way longer than you want, and it's going to start to grow bacteria.”
So instead, defrost your food in the fridge. Put it in the night before and leave it.
Speaking of defrosted food, many people assume once defrosted, you can't refreeze it. Not true. As long as it's within a day or so, you can move it from the fridge right back to the freezer for another time.
And what about peeled fruit like cantaloupe or watermelon? Do you need to wash it if you're only eating the inside? Yes.
"Because the skin harbors a lot of bacteria, and when you take your knife and cut through, it'll drag that bacteria from the rind right into that fruit that you're going to eat," McCracken says.
Lastly, many people also believe hot food like soup or stew should cool before going in the fridge. Not really. The longer it's out, the more likely it can breed bacteria. Once the steam is out, you should move it to the fridge. Just stir it so it cools evenly.
In general, there are some healthy habits we should all incorporate in the kitchen. In the next Healthy Living report, McCracken has some easy-to-digest tips that will keep your kitchen clean and your stomach safe.