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Cooking with Kids

Safety Rules!

Kitchen & Safety Rules from the Food and Drug Administration


The first rule of safe food preparation is to keep everything clean.

✔     Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling any food. For children, this means the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.

✔     Wash surfaces (cutting boards, dishes, utensils, countertops) with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before going on to the next item.

          Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool running water and use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.

          Do not rinse raw meat and poultry before cooking. “Washing these foods makes it more likely for bacteria to spread to areas around the sink and countertops,” says Marjorie Davidson of the FDA.


Don’t give bacteria the opportunity to spread from one food to another (cross-contamination).

          Keep egg products, raw meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from foods that won’t be cooked. Take this precaution while shopping in the store, when storing in the refrigerator at home, and while preparing meals.

          Consider using one cutting board only for foods that will be cooked (such as raw meat, poultry, and seafood) and another one for those that will not be cooked (such as raw fruits and vegetables).

✔     Keep fruits and vegetables that will be eaten raw separate from other foods such as raw meat, poultry or seafood—and from kitchen utensils used for those products.

          Do not put cooked meat or other food that is ready to eat on an unwashed plate that has held any egg products, or any raw meat, poultry, seafood, or their juices.


Food is safely cooked when it reaches an internal temperature that is high enough to kill harmful bacteria.

          “Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness,” says Davidson. Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry, and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature. To check a turkey for safety, for example, insert a food thermometer into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. The turkey is safe when the temperature reaches 165°F. If the turkey is stuffed, the temperature of the stuffing should be 165°F.

          Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil when reheating.

          Cook eggs until the yolk and white are firm. When making your own eggnog or other recipe calling for raw eggs, use pasteurized shell eggs, liquid or frozen pasteurized egg products, or powdered egg whites.

          Don’t eat uncooked cookie dough, which may contain raw eggs.


Refrigerate foods quickly because harmful bacteria grow rapidly at room temperature.

          Refrigerate leftovers and takeout foods—and any type of food that should be refrigerated—within two hours.

          Set your refrigerator at or below 40°F and the freezer at 0°F. Check both periodically with an appliance thermometer.

          Never defrost food at room temperature. Food can be defrosted safely in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave. Food thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked immediately.

          Allow the correct amount of time to properly thaw food. For example, a 20-pound turkey needs four to five days to thaw completely when thawed in the refrigerator.

          Don’t taste food that looks or smells questionable. Davidson says, “a good rule to follow is, when in doubt, throw it out.”

          Leftovers should be used within three to four days.

Cooking Safety Tips from the Department of Agriculture

          Fasten hair back if it’s long.

          Wear clean clothes.

          Get started by washing hands and tables.

          Taste with a clean spoon. A licked spoon goes in the sink, not back in the bowl.

          Resist nibbling cookie dough or cake batter.

          Have children stay away from hot surfaces, utensils, and sharp objects. An adult needs to help.

          Work at a table or child-size surface.

          Walk slowly. Carry food and utensils with care.

          Wipe up spills.