Today I would like to share some interesting and very important information about how to properly store food… but not fresh food… I will write all about that in another diary!
How to properly store food that has been cooked at home.
Before I start, I want all of us to get up and go wash our hands!
It is so VERY important to have clean hands while putting away the food you cooked so that you don’t contaminate it! Hands need to be very clean generally, as well as your working surface, any pots, pans or cooking utensils before cooking. You protect your food from any microorganisms in this way…
How and why can food get contaminated by microorganisms?
Food can become contaminated from your hands, from any insects and other animals and also by coming in to contact with other food. Of course there are also microorganisms in the air but these are hard to avoid.
So after washing your hands very well…. you need to clean out the refrigerator and get it prepared.
When it comes to the refrigerator there are some general “rules”. All the fresh meat and fish should be on the lower shelves and not near the food that has just been cooked. Unless of course the shelves higher up are colder, then that’s where the fresh meat and fish should be. If this is the case, just be careful that the meat or fish is in a sealed container and not in the paper that was used to wrap it in from the market.
This is done so that no juices other substances fall from the raw meat or fish on to the cooked food.
So after washing your hands and cleaning the refrigerator.. you are ready to begin. Well, actually you are not ready to begin yet! I want you to remember two numbers… 5 and 65!
Why are these two numbers so important?
The first number… 5… is the temperature under which microorganisms can live but cannot multiply. (5* C- 41* F)
The second number… 65… is the temperature where most pathogenic microorganisms that are found in food, cannot live and die. (65* C - 149* F)
The temperature in most refrigerators is around 4 degrees (4* C- 49* F). This makes it a safe temperature for food. For the food to be preserved as long as possible, it must reach this temperature as quickly as possible.
So the important thing to remember is that cooked food must be refrigerated within 2 hours after it is cooked. This is of course concerning the food that is leftover, not what is to be eaten immediately.
As food cools, microorganisms grow inside of it. Around 30*- 40* C (86*-104* F) they are really partying and they multiply quickly!
Now that you know all of this you know what should be done. Cook the food, serve it and put the leftovers straight into the refrigerator.
In this way, you can eat freshly cooked food and not allow any time for the microorganisms to multiply.
“So Akis, what you are trying to say is that as soon as we cook a hot and steaming navy bean soup, we should put it in the refrigerator straight away?”
Yes! That’s exactly what I’m telling you… Ok, if you want to, you can let it sit for 1 hour at the most so it can cool down a little. But then straight in to the fridge!
I remember my parents would just leave a pot of beans or rice out until nighttime and now that I know what goes on in there it makes my skin crawl!!!
So, as I said, it is important to chill the food quickly.
You don’t actually put the whole pot of navy bean soup in the refrigerator as it is!
First of all because the pot is still hot and it takes longer for the food to cool and secondly because the larger the quantity of food in a pot or bowl, the longer it takes for it to cool…
What can you do about all of this? It’s really easy… listen up!
Begin by stocking up on good quality bowls or containers whose lids seal tight.
Divide the navy bean soup, or whatever food you have cooked, in to portions. Transfer to the containers and store them in the refrigerator or the freezer. Since the quantities of food are much smaller now, they will cool quickly, especially if you place them far apart.
You might ask “Is the refrigerator able to chill such large quantities of food Akis?”
The more modern refrigerators are… Just don’t add 4 kilos of navy bean soup all at once!!
It also helps if you don’t cover the containers completely. You can leave them completely open or half way open.
Moisture also helps the microorganisms to multiply. That’s why it helps not to cover the containers immediately… so extra moisture doesn’t develop.
When the food chills completely, cover with lids and seal them tight. Write down the date on the actual container and store them in the refrigerator or freezer.
In this way, most cooked food can be easily preserved for 4 days in the refrigerator and for over 3 months in the freezer.
Food is best defrosted in the refrigerator and not on a counter or in the sink. Why?
Remember the number 4… Up until 4* C (39* F) microorganisms are asleep, so they’re not in the mood to party! If you do the opposite and leave a container of food out to thaw at room temperature… as soon as it reaches 4* C the microorganisms begin to multiply… and by the time it is time to eat it they will be partying BIG TIME and having a blast!! This is one situation where the term “the more the merrier” does NOT apply!!
How do we heat food?
It doesn’t really matter if you do it on the stove in a saucepan, in the microwave or in a pan.
What matters is for the temperature to reach over 65* C (149* F), so that any microorganisms that may be present in the food will be completely destroyed.
How to heat up food depending on what type of food it is… I will leave for another diary!