NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Cooking for Groups

Cooking for Groups

                The time of year is fast approaching when celebrations – graduations, bridal showers, weddings, family reunions – are in full swing. When preparing for your special event, remember that there may be an invisible enemy ready to strike. It’s called BAC (bacteria) and it can make you sick. But by following four simple steps, you have the power to Fight BAC! and keep your food safe.

                Clean –– Wash hands and surfaces often.

                Separate –– Don’t cross contaminate.

                Cook –– Cook to proper temperatures.

                Chill –– Refrigerate promptly.

                Begin with washing surfaces often. Bacteria can be spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, and counter tops. To prevent this:

• Wash hands with soap and hot water before and after handling food, and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or handling pets.

• Use paper towels or clean cloths to wipe up kitchen surfaces or spills. Wash cloths often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.

• Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item. A solution of about one teaspoon bleach in 1 quart of water may be used to sanitize washed surfaces and utensils.

                When cutting boards are used:

• Always use a clean cutting board.

• If possible, use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.

• Once cutting boards become excessively worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves, you should replace them.

                Never defrost food at room temperature.  Instead, thaw food in the refrigerator or in the microwave (followed by immediate cooking). Food may also be thawed in cold water. Be sure that the sink or container that holds food is clean before submerging food. Two methods may be used when thawing:

• Completely submerge airtight wrapped package. Change water every 30 minutes.

• Completely submerge airtight wrapped food in constantly running cold water.

                Marinades are used to tenderize or add flavor to food. When using marinades:

• Always marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter.

• Use food-grade plastic, stainless steel, or glass containers to marinate food.

• Sauce that is used to marinate raw meat, poultry, fish or seafood should not be used on cooked foods, unless it is boiled before applying.

• Never reuse marinades for other foods.

                Some other foods that need special attend are breading/coatings and stuffing. Discard any leftover batter or breading after it has come in contact with raw food. Prepare stuffing and place in poultry cavity or in pockets of thick sliced meat or poultry just before roasting.

                Wash fruits and vegetables with cool tap water before use. Thick-skinned produce may be scrubbed with a brush. Do not use soap.

                Do not taste those special dishes until they reach a safe internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer. Use a clean utensil each time you taste food; otherwise you may contaminate the food.  For a complete listing of food safe temperatures, you can look online at:


                When you are ready to cook, use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of meat, poultry, casseroles, and other food. Check temperature in several places to be sure the food is evenly heated. Wash the thermometer with hot, soapy water after use.             Never partially cook food for finishing later because you increase the risk of bacterial growth on the food. Bacteria are killed only when foods reach a safe internal temperature.

                More next week on serving foods at a celebration and safely storing leftovers.

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