Kitchen Cleanliness – Should you wash your food?

Even though the best chefs in the world may be men, the vast majority of us Suddenly Solos can’t really boast that we are extremely kitchen-literate.  Sure, we are learning our way around the basics, but that can often focus on the cooking component and not necessarily the preparation aspect.  The more I learned about the kitchen, the more I realized that everything depends on keeping things clean.  And that means not just the prep surfaces and kitchen utensils – it includes the food as well.  But what foodstuffs are candidates for a quick ablution?  Here’s a list of some foods that do and don’t need to be washed:

Cantaloupe – The dimpled surfaces of rough produce can hide bacteria. Definitely wash these with a vegetable brush (yes, there are such things!).  Even bananas can benefit from a quick wash before you peel them.

Eggs – Unless you are going out to the hen house yourself, commercially produced eggs are cleaned as part of the packaging process, so you needn’t bother washing them.  In fact, water can actually penetrate the porous shell, increasing the risk of contamination.

Raw meat and poultry – I was way off on this.  While rinsing might rid the meat of some bacteria, the run-off will likely wind up in the sink or in splash-distance to foods anyway, resulting in cross-contamination. It’s best to just cook the meat thoroughly to fully kill the bacteria as opposed to the bath!

Bagged, pre-washed greens – Yes!  Studies have shown that ready-to-eat salads often have bacteria.  Put the greens in a colander and rinse them well.  Then give them a quick turn in a salad spinner to remove any remaining soil and contaminants.

Tender Produce – Peaches, plums, tomatoes, etc., should be rinsed under cool running water for thirty to sixty seconds and rubbed with a nylon vegetable brush.  Cut away any damaged or decayed areas and dry with a paper towel.

Loose, leafy greens – Veggies like lettuce should be washed thoroughly.  Pull off the dead outside leaves where dirt and bacteria live most.  Separate the remaining leaves and wash them individually to dislodge any soil.  A salad spinner will help to remove any remaining moisture before consuming them.

I have found that a self-standing colander is a must (some don’t have any “feet”).  Put it in the sink and you can use two hands to clean and toss around the greens easily without having to balance the colander.  When it comes to vegetable brushes, buy one that you can hold easily and comfortably.  Nylon brushes are easiest on softer fruits.  Remember, the tools have to be washed when you’ve finished using them!  Put them in the dishwasher to sanitize them.


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