Learning the art of cooking transcends mastering recipes—it encompasses grasping essential kitchen safety guidelines. A critical mistake often made by home chefs is improper food storage, leaving items susceptible to bacterial growth and foodborne illnesses. It’s imperative to understand the foods that should never be stored on the counter to ensure safety, a factor that sometimes eludes even seasoned cooks.
While basics like refraining from leaving raw chicken exposed are well-known, there are several food items that tend to go unnoticed in many households. These six foods, often overlooked, should never find a place on your kitchen counter, according to experts.
- Natural Nut Butters:
Most commercial peanut butters maintain quality for up to three months in the pantry after opening. However, natural nut butters, lacking added preservatives, require refrigeration post-opening. Trista Best, RD, a registered dietitian, emphasizes refrigeration to preserve the freshness and texture of these nut butters, as their high unsaturated fat content can turn rancid when exposed to heat, light, or air.
- Jams and Jellies:
While unopened jars of jam or jelly can remain unrefrigerated for up to 12 months, the USDA recommends refrigerating them once opened. This precautionary measure prevents mold and bacterial growth, ensuring food safety.
- Cooked Leftovers:
After cooking, promptly storing leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours is vital. Delaying this process increases the risk of foodborne illnesses. Amy Hand, a pastry chef, highlights the necessity of refrigerating cooked food to prevent contamination and illness.
Contrary to some international practices, eggs should be stored consistently at 45 degrees Fahrenheit in a refrigerator. In the U.S., eggs are processed without the protective cuticle, making room temperature storage unsafe after two hours.
- Unfinished Canned Foods:
Once a canned food item is opened, transferring the remaining contents to airtight containers or ziplock bags for immediate refrigeration is crucial. Despite their extended shelf life when sealed, open canned foods become perishable and susceptible to bacterial growth.
- Perishable Foods:
Items prone to spoilage, like cut fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, and dairy, should never be left on the counter. The CDC recommends refrigerating perishable foods within two hours to prevent bacterial growth and contamination.
Mastering kitchen safety involves understanding the nuances of proper food storage. Whether it’s the vulnerability of natural nut butters to room temperature or the need to promptly refrigerate cooked leftovers, adhering to these guidelines minimizes the risk of foodborne illnesses and ensures safe consumption.