Cooking for a crowd, keeping food fresh and safe

Cooking for a crowd, keeping food fresh and safe

There are around 5.4 million cases of foodborne illness in Australia every year. Of these, it is estimated that 1 in 5 occurs from incorrect food handling in the home. Check out the answers to these commonly asked questions and make sure your guests are safe next time you entertain. Remember whether you are serving 4 or 40 guests, the same rules apply.

Common questions about food safety

When do you wash your hands before or after cooking?
Answer: Before, after and during preparation.

Wash hands in hot soapy water for around 30 seconds before preparing food and after touching raw meat or pets.

  • To avoid cross contamination wash hands in between tasks too.
  • If you’ve prepared raw meat and are ready to prep the veggies, give your hands a wash and dry thoroughly with a clean hand towel.

Do I need a separate board for preparing meat and carving meat?
Answer: Yes.

Make sure all cooking utensils, preparation boards, knives, serving platters etc. are washed between handling raw and cooked meat and vegetables.

  • Never handle cooked and uncooked meats together. Do not cut them up with the same utensils or on the same boards.
  • Do not use the same chopping board, utensils or serving platters for any ‘to be cooked’ food, like meat and ‘ready-to-eat’ food like salad, vegetables or cooked meat.

Do you need to refrigerate marinating meat?
Answer:  Yes, it is best to keep all meat in the fridge until you are ready to cook it.

  • Meat can be taken from the fridge to lose a little of its chill before cooking.
  • Be mindful of the temperature of the kitchen or the heat of day. Around ten minutes is sufficient.
  • When storing raw (or marinating) meat in the fridge, place it near the bottom of the fridge and ensure that juices do not drip onto other food.

When barbecuing meat, is it true that cross-contamination is not a concern because of the high temperatures used during the cooking?
Answer:  No, when barbecuing you need be very mindful of safe food practices.

Keep these points in mind:

  • As per the points above, keep the meat in the fridge until you are nearly ready to barbecue it.
  • Make sure the barbecue cook doesn’t mix up the cooking utensils. Preparation boards, knives plates etc. must be washed between handling raw and cooked meat.
  • Always keep raw and cooked meat and other ingredients separate.
  • Keep meat in the fridge until you are ready to put it on the barbecue.
  • Keep both raw and cooked meat covered to protect it from contamination and flies.
  • Have a clean plate and clean utensils ready to place the cooked meat on – NEVER reuse a plate that was used for the raw meat.
  • Never stand meat in direct sunlight for any length of time.
  • To avoid food poisoning, never pour raw marinade mixture over cooked meat.

If you want to keep leftovers for another meal make sure it hasn’t been at room temperature for more than two hours.
Answer: Yes, that’s correct.

When you entertain, follow these rules to keep food fresh and safe:

  • If food has been out for less than 2 hours, refrigerate it or use immediately.
  • Between 2 hours to 4 hours, it should be used immediately.
  • If food has been out of refrigeration or cooked and standing for more than four hours, the food must be thrown out to avoid potential food poisoning.

Does freezing kill bacteria?
Answer:  No, it only prevents any further growth.

Heat destroys bacteria.

  • Bacteria thrive in moist areas – don’t spread bacteria with dirty sponges or dishcloths.
  • Did you know the average kitchen sponge harbours 7.2 billion bacteria?

The danger zone for rapid bacterial growth is between 5ºC and 60ºC. Answer:

Some bacteria and viruses (microorganisms) can cause foodborne illness (also called food poisoning). You cannot tell by the look, smell or taste whether a food contains dangerous levels of microorganisms. These can either be present in food at its source, or can come from other people, surfaces or equipment, or other foods by cross contamination.

  • Bacteria require nourishment, moisture and the right temperature to survive. Most bacteria will not multiply under temperatures of less than 5°C and only a few survive temperatures of greater than 74°C. The danger zone for bacteria growth is between 5°C and 60°C with optimum temperature for growth between 20°C and 45°C.
    • This means perishable food must be kept refrigerator cold or steaming hot (so that steam is rising) to slow bacterial growth.
    • Viruses do not grow in food but they can survive for long periods.

Essential tips

  • Be extra careful preparing and cooking food for young children, the pregnant, elderly and sick people. They are particularly susceptible to foodborne illness.
  • The rules are:
    • Wash hands and utensils in hot, soapy water before handling food and after touching raw food.
    • Keep cold food as cold as possible.
    • Keep juices from raw meats away from ready-to-eat food to avoid cross contamination with pathogens.
    • Keep hot food steaming hot. Cook meats properly and make sure any stews come to the boil.

Rate this Article

Give a rating

From The Community

Sign into your account
You must be logged in to complete this action.
Sign in using your Facebook account

The fastest and easiest way to sign into your account.

Sign in with Facebook