The Most Important Things to Know Before You Even Touch the Stove

Welcome to The Utensil Drawer!  You and your partner will be in for a journey that will be fulfilling and satisfying, in your relationship and your stomachs.  This first post will discuss some main points you should know before you roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.  Or should I say clean?

The number one item to remember when cooking is food safety.  At times, it may just seem easier to avoid, but it is one of the most critical things you can do to keep you and your partner safe.  The four key aspects to food safety are:

  • Cook
  • Clean
  • Separate
  • Chill

Cook:  One of the most important tools to have in your utensil drawer at home is a food thermometer to help you determine if your food is cooked properly.  The “Danger Zone” is the temperature range between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit where bacteria reproduce rapidly.  This means hot foods must be cooked and held above 140 degrees and cold foods must be held at less than 40 degrees.

This picture is a quick guide to proper cooking temperatures for different types and cuts of meat.
This picture is a quick guide to proper cooking temperatures for different types and cuts of meat.
*Note: If you prefer your steaks, roasts, and chops more well-done you can cook them all the way up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, however, you will lose more moisture and juiciness.

Clean:  Make sure all your tools and supplies are clean, as well as any fruits and vegetables you will be cooking.  This is the number one way to prevent the spread of disease, so do it!

Separate:  The key item to avoid here is cross contamination.  Cross contamination occurs when juices from meat come into contact with ready-to-eat foods.  This means that all the germs that are living in the meat product now are living on your fruits and veggies that are sitting at room temperature (aka, in the Danger Zone), which means rapid bacterial reproduction and a sick cook.

Chill:  Refrigerators should be kept below 40 degrees in order to avoid putting food into the Danger Zone.  Also, chill refers to leftovers, which when cooking for two, there always seem to be.  When getting ready to pack leftovers into the refrigerator, put them in small shallow containers to allow for quicker cooling.

The second main point I want to emphasize is to utilize your resources efficiently.  Here’s a joke for you:  what do you get when you mix a poor college student with a love for food?  That’s right, a college student that’s more poor.  Quality ingredients aren’t cheap, so throughout this blog I will give you some of my personal tips for getting every last penny out of your grocery cart.

Finally, be creative with your cooking.  Cooking isn’t just getting dinner on the table.  Studies have shown that cooking together can create an environment for couples to learn to cooperate as well as adjust to each other’s tastes (Hermann, 2011).  Think of it as an expression of love, as cheesy as that sounds.  Also, feel free to change up some ingredients.  If I use lime juice and all you have is lemon, go ahead and use it.  That’s all for today’s post.  Until next time, keep your knife sharp and your mind sharper.

Hermann, Katherine Maya. “A Recipe for Relationships: A Qualitative Investigation of Couples’ Relational Interactions during Meal Preparations.” The College of William and Mary, 2012. United States — Virginia: ProQuest. Web. 24 Mar. 2013.