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Food Safety: One Part of Culinary Education

Your culinary school will not only show you how to make a wonderful bearnaise sauce, it will also show you how to make sure your sauce doesn't kill anyone. Food-borne illnesses can be devastating, but part of a culinary education is learning how to avoid them.

What You Can't See Will Hurt You

Nothing can derail a rising culinary career faster than giving your customers food poisoning. It sounds terribly dramatic, but unfortunately, it is easy to do. Food safety is a very important subject in a culinary education. A cream sauce may be a delightful creation, but it can be home to thousands of harmful bacteria.

Food that is contaminated with pathogens such as parasites or viruses, or good old-fashioned bacteria, can cause discomfort, serious illness, or even death. The terror zone for bacteria growth is temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. At 40 or below, the bacteria are so inactive that they can't grow. Above 140, they simply die. You'll hear these numbers again and again in culinary school, unless you are in Europe--where the magic numbers are 5 and 60 degrees centigrade.

Practice Safe Serving

Here are some simple rules for food safety:

  • Make sure your hot food stays hot and your cold food stays cold
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure food reaches 140 degrees F
  • If you are reheating food, the temperature should be a minimum of 165 degrees F
  • Put perishable food into the refrigerator now--not later
  • Don't leave frozen food standing out on a counter to defrost
  • When marinating meat or fish, do so in the refrigerator
  • Use several small containers for leftovers so the food can cool quickly