Food safety tools added to your gift list will help keep food safe and your loved ones healthy. Consider putting several tools together for one present, or use them as stocking-stuffers.
Here are some ideas:
A food thermometer: Food thermometers are the only way to tell if food is cooked to recommended temperatures to destroy harmful bacteria. They also help prevent overcooking or serving dried-up food.
Instant-read thermometers, either dial or digital, quickly measure the temperature of food near the end of the cooking time. Digital thermometers usually cost more than dial, but may be easier to read than dial.
Oven-safe thermometers remain in the food during cooking. If the thermometer is not left in the food during cooking, it can take as long as one to two minutes to register the correct temperature.
Oven-cord thermometers include a digital probe that is inserted into the food and attached to a long wire that connects to a base unit outside the oven or grill. Set the desired temperature and the unit beeps when it reaches that temperature. This thermometer may be difficult to find and is more expensive.
Appliance thermometers: Buy one for both the refrigerator and freezer. Freezer temperatures should be zero degrees or lower. The recommended refrigerator temperature is between 32-40 degrees to ensure that the internal temperature of refrigerated food is 40 degrees or colder.
Color-coded cutting boards: Prevent cross-contamination by using different colored cutting boards for different foods. For example, cut raw meat, poultry and fish on a red board; prepare raw fruits and vegetables on a green board; and slice bread on a yellow board. Many plastic and tempered glass boards are easier to clean and sanitize than wood because you can put them into the dishwasher.
A kitchen timer: A timer is a reminder to check if something is done, but it can also be used to remind cooks to put food away. Many cooks leave food out to cool on the counter, only to discover it still sitting there the next morning. Perishable food is not safe if left out more than two hours; one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees.
Colanders: Washing and scrubbing fruits and vegetables under running water is important. An extra colander or two may save time and help prevent cross-contamination. Consider buying them in a variety of sizes.
- Carol Ann Burtness is a food science educator with University of Minnesota Extension.