Kitchen Basics: Part One
If you’re going to work in the kitchen, some basic guidelines are helpful. Don’t be put off by a few “rules” — these are intended to keep you from getting ill or hurt, and will help you get things done quickly and efficiently. I’ll break these tips into two posts to keep them from seeming too overwhelming.
1. Keep your kitchen clean. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Wash dirty dishes and utensils as soon as you reasonably can after using them (or rinse and load them into your dishwasher, if you have one). Doing dishes right away really is easier: Just once, try to clean a pan that sat overnight with dried mashed potatoes, then honestly tell me it wouldn’t have been easier to do it right after dinner. Same with eggs, pasta sauces, and lots of other foods. Just do the dishes. You’ll thank me in the morning.
Remember to wipe off your counter tops, stove, oven, and the floor when needed. Do you want nasty bugs running around your kitchen and getting into your food? No, you do not — but a dirty kitchen is one of the quickest ways they’ll find you. And once they’re in, they’re hard to get out. Prevention is key, and keeping a clean kitchen is the best prevention.
2. Store food appropriately. If you buy something that says “Refrigerate after opening,” do it. If something comes with a lid, use it. If you have flour and sugar, once the bags have been opened, either fold over the tops tightly and fasten them with a rubber band, or buy separate canisters with covers that seal tightly to keep those staples fresh and free of any pests.
If you buy something in bulk to freeze (for instance, a large package of chicken pieces), wrap each packet tightly in plastic wrap or foil before putting it into a resealable plastic bag (expelling as much air as possible) or other container for the freezer. Label and date the bag so you can tell what this chunk of “stuff” is in a month or two. Use frozen meats and leftovers within six months.
3. Store and use leftovers promptly. Leftovers can make your next evening’s meal a breeze. But they have to be refrigerated promptly — within an hour — and used within a few days. Leftover meat should cool slightly and then be stored in a clean container (not the one you cooked the meat in), covered tightly, and refrigerated (or frozen if you won’t be using it within a week). Leftover vegetables should be covered and refrigerated, and anything dairy needs to be kept cool at all times.
Next: More ground rules for your kitchen