Food Safety – How to Prevent and Treat Food Poisoning

There are so many great things about food, but unfortunately foodstuffs can also carry germs that can spoil our food or make us sick. In healthy people, it takes a lot of these germs to make us sick, but they can grow quite quickly. There is a lot that we can do to stop them though.


Aside from the obvious (don’t eat rotten food), here are my top 5 rules for food safety:

1. Keep your tools, hands, and kitchen clean

It’s important to make sure that all the things you use for cooking stay clean. All of your kitchen equipment should be washed after use, especially if it’s been used for raw meat or fish. Your worktops and even your cooker need wiping down too. You don’t need to use antibacterial cleaning products; just hot, soapy water and a clean cloth is fine.

Your hands are just as important to keep clean. Wash them before cooking and after touching things like raw meat, eggs, bins and pets. (You shouldn’t wash the meats themselves though, as this is more likely to spread germs than get rid of them.)

2. Keep different kinds of foods separate

Different kinds of foods can carry different kinds of germs, so it’s important to keep them separate from each other. Try and keep animal products separate from vegetables, and dairy products by themselves too. It’s particularly important to keep foods that are ready to eat away from foods that still need cooking. In fact, it’s best to keep raw foods on the bottom shelf of your fridge, as they can sometimes leak onto other foods. Make sure to seal up opened packets and containers, and keep all your leftovers in sealed containers.

When you’re preparing ingredients for cooking, it’s still best not to mix them. You might even want to consider having separate chopping boards for meat and seafood.

3. Cook food all the way through

From a food safety standpoint, it’s better to have food that’s over-cooked than under-cooked. There are a few exceptions – whole cuts of beef and lamb, and vegetables that can be eaten both raw and cooked will be fine a little under-done. Don’t be afraid to cut foods (especially processed meats) in half to check that they’re done in the middle.

On the other hand, it’s best to leave most ingredients in their natural state until you’re going to use them. Once you’ve chopped something up, it will start to spoil faster. If you want to pre-prepare ingredients, you’ll need to add an extra step like blanching or freezing so they stay good to use.

4. Don’t leave food out at room temperature

Foods spoil much more quickly when they’re warm, because germs can grow faster. Make sure to keep fresh ingredients chilled, and keep foods in the freezer if you’re not going to use them in the next few days.

Once you’ve cooked your food it’s important to either eat it or chill it, ideally within 1-2 hours of cooking. You can then reheat most foods, as long as you heat them all the way through and don’t leave them sitting in a warm environment. Surprisingly, it’s especially important to cook and cool rice properly, and only reheat it once.

5. Trust your nose

Most foods do start to look and smell different the longer you keep them, especially after chilling or freezing them. However, most of us can tell when something is ‘off’. Some good indicators are if the food is slimy or sour, has gas bubbles where there were none before, or you can see mould growing on the food.

Most foods also come with best before and/or use by dates. Best before dates are indicators of food enjoyability, so you can safely eat food that’s past the best before date. However use by dates are indicators of food safety, so please do pay attention to them.


These five tips should help keep both you and your food safe, and you can find more information on food safety from organisations like the Food Standards Agency (link) and the NHS (link). Even following best practices at home, it’s hard to entirely eliminate the risk of food poisoning. So you can read more on that down below.


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Heat Safety – How to Prevent and Treat Burns

Whenever you’re cooking, you’re going to be dealing with hot temperatures. This is important to make sure the food you make is good to eat, but does carry a risk to us as cooks. However, as long as you follow some basic safety guidelines, you needn’t worry too much.


Aside from the obvious (don’t play with fire or a hot cooker), here are my top 5 rules for heat safety:

1. Pay attention to your cooking

Carelessness in the kitchen can cause burns and even fires. When you’re cooking it’s best not to leave it unattended, especially if it’s on the hob or on a high heat. Some slow cooking methods can be left for a short time, but make sure to set a timer and check up on it every so often.

2. Be patient

It’s best to start with slower cooking methods; they take longer because they use lower temperatures, which makes them safer. Don’t try and jump right into something like deep-frying – this is pretty much the most dangerous way to cook food.

Remember too that ovens and pans will take a little while to get to the right temperature. Be patient rather than cranking the heat all the way up – it’s better for dinner to be a little bit late than for it to be burnt. If your pan does get a bit hot, I find that the best way to cool it down is to surround the outside with cold water – the sink is usually the best place to do this. Adding water to the inside can ruin your food and if there’s oil in there it’ll hiss and spit at you horribly.

3. Know how different materials respond to heat

Heat conductors like metal get hot really easily and can easily transfer heat to you too, but they also cool down quickly. Heat insulators like plastic, fabric, and glass take much longer to heat up but also take longer to cool down than conductors.

Flammable materials like fabric, paper, hair, oil, and some plastics, can catch fire if exposed to too much heat or (if you have a gas stove) an open flame. Make sure all hair and clothing is tied back, and keep things like tea towels, oven gloves and packaging materials away from the stove. Try not to use a lot of oil, and never mix hot oil and water.

4. Be aware of the heat sources in your kitchen

The rings on a hob and the inside of an oven will of course get hot, but the areas around these can too. Any pans that you’ve been cooking with can stay hot for a surprisingly long time, and electrical appliances like kettles and toasters will get hot too. Make sure you turn your cooker and electrics off after use, and take extra care if you’re not the only person using the kitchen.

If you’re not sure how hot something is, try feeling the air around it to see if that’s hot. Never touch something that might be hot with the palm of your hand – this can trigger your grip reflex. Instead, you can use the very tips of your fingers or the back of your hand. It’s a good idea to use your other senses too – if you can hear a sizzling sound, see steam or smoke, or if something smells hot, it’s probably too hot to touch.

5. Be prepared

Although I hope none of you ever have to deal with one, there is a risk of fires in the kitchen. Make sure your smoke alarms stay in good working order (more information here), and have a plan in case something goes wrong (link).

You might also want to consider investing in safety equipment like a fire extinguisher or a fire blanket (more information here). Don’t be afraid to call the emergency services, and always value your safety over your stuff.


These five tips should help keep you safe in the kitchen, but even following best practices accidents can happen. You can find great first aid advice from organisations like the Red Cross (link) and the NHS (link), or you can read on for basic first aid for the kinds of burns you might get in the kitchen.


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Knife Safety – How to Prevent and Treat Cuts

I consider a good knife to be one of the most important pieces of kitchen equipment. Although any sharp tool can be dangerous, if you make sure to use it properly you needn’t worry too much.


Aside from the obvious (don’t run with, throw knives or wave them around), here are my top 5 rules for knife safety:

1. Use a sharp knife

It’s a little counterintuitive, but a sharp knife is safer than a blunt knife. This is because when you use a blunt knife, you have to put a lot more force behind the blade. This makes you more likely to lose control of it.

2. Always cut away from yourself

Not putting any part of your body in the path of the knife is the best way to avoid cutting yourself. There are some advanced techniques which break this rule, but you need to be comfortable handling a knife before you try these.

3. Cut downwards

Don’t try and fight gravity – it makes it harder to keep control of your knife. Some more advanced techniques do involve cutting sideways, but you should never cut upwards.

4. Use a flat surface

It’s important when you’re chopping ingredients to have a stable, flat chopping surface. A chopping board or plate can help with this, but also make sure that your table or worktop is steady, and your ingredients aren’t going to go rolling off by themselves while you’ve got a knife in your hand.

(This flat surface is also the best place to put down your knife when you aren’t using it.)

5. Stand up if you can

For most people it’s safest to cook standing up. This is because if you drop anything it’s much easier and quicker to just step back than to push a chair backwards.

If you find standing difficult, I would recommend using a chair with wheels. If your kitchen is adapted for it a wheelchair is great, but if not I can recommend a wheeled office chair. If you are cooking sitting down, you might want to consider putting something solid like a tray over your lap.


These five tips should help keep you safe in the kitchen, but even following best practices accidents can happen. You can find great first aid advice from organisations like the Red Cross (link) and the NHS (link), or you can read on for basic first aid for the kinds of cuts and scrapes you might get from kitchen knives.


Continue reading “Knife Safety – How to Prevent and Treat Cuts”