Going a step farther, I wanted a few tips from a professional chef. Chefs know how to prepare beautiful and safe food. Cross-contamination and improper temperatures can mean the difference between life and death.
Chef Michael Sultan of Revolution Taco gave me four simple tips:
- Label, Label, Label
We know professional organizers love label makers; labeling food is an easy way to ensure you’re not eating expired food. When the health department goes into a commercial kitchen, one of the first things they look for are labels with dates. So why aren’t we doing this at home? Labeling is as simple as using masking tape and a Sharpie. When you return from the grocery store, write the date on your purchases. After making dinner, label leftovers with the name of the dish and date before putting in the fridge or freezer.
- First In, First Out
Once things are labeled properly, it will be easy to follow the “first in, first out” rule. First thing in the fridge should be the first thing out of the fridge.
If you pay attention to dates and plan meals accordingly, you will save food, money and space.
Everyone has food staples they stock in the fridge. Mine are garlic, onions, rice and tons of hot sauces. Others may have eggs, milk, lunch meat, cheese and yogurt. Whatever yours are, it can be helpful to keep an inventory sheet of must-have items. Restaurant owner, Mike explained, his menu generally stays the same aside from specials. He keeps an inventory of things he always needs on hand so any employee can order food.
Mike recommends typing and laminating the inventory, and posting it on the fridge. Keep a dry erase marker handy to mark your laminated Inventory Sheet. When someone uses the last drops of milk in their coffee, they can put a checkmark next to ‘milk.’ That way, whomever does the shopping knows what to get. Leave space at the bottom to add extra items, take a photo of your Inventory Sheet before running to the store and you’ll have a foolproof shopping list!
Proper food storage is crucial to avoid cross-contamination and foodborne illness. If you only take away one thing from this post, remember to store raw meat at the bottom of the fridge. To prolong freshness, make sure raw meat is tightly sealed with as little air inside as possible. If you aren’t sure how tight the seal is, put it on a plate to avoid dripping and therefore contaminating other surfaces or food. Label and date packages so there is no guesswork on freshness.
I confess – the chef I interviewed is my boyfriend, Mike. Before I adopted some of his foodie chef habits, my fridge was the place food went to die. Now I have a clean, spacious fridge and save money because I am not tossing food I forgot to eat in time.
If you use these four chef-approved tips, you too can have a safe and streamlined kitchen!