Welcome to Cooking 101, a fun, weekly series of cooking lessons and hands-on learning from America's Test Kitchen Cooking School. Who are we? Our knowledge and techniques are based on 20 years of test kitchen work creating foolproof recipes for Cook's Illustrated magazine and for our television shows. We believe that everybody, whether novice or advanced, can gain the skills and confidence to become a better cook.
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Simply put, good kitchen sanitation practices, such as washing your hands frequently and keeping raw foods and cooked foods separate, will dramatically reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses.
RELATED: Most bacteria thrive between 40 and 140 degrees, multiplying to harmful levels. Learn how to avoid this "danger zone" in your kitchen.
Like meat, produce can also harbor harmful bacteria. Here are some Test Kitchen tips for cleaning produce.
Apples and Other Produce with Smooth Skins
A spray bottle filled with three parts water and one part white vinegar can be used to clean smooth-surfaced produce such as apples and pears. Just spray with vinegar solution, then rinse under tap water. In our tests, this method removed 98 percent of surface bacteria.
Melons and Other Produce with Inedible Skins
It's also good practice to wash produce that has inedible rinds and peels, such as melons, because cutting into a contaminated peel can drag pathogens inside.
Berries and Other Delicate Produce
Delicate fruit, like berries, can be washed in a bowl filled with three parts water and one part white vinegar: Drain, rinse with tap water, and then spin dry in a salad spinner lined with paper towels. Be sure not to combine more fragile berries with firmer berries (raspberries and blueberries, for instance) in the salad spinner, as the fragile ones may be crushed.
READY TO COOK? In our "Food Safety 101" course (free for Yahoo! Shine readers through October 7, 2012), we teach you everything you need to know about keeping your kitchen safe, like the dangerous truth behind washing raw meat and poutry, how to calibrate your refrigerator to keep the right food at the right temperature, and even exactly how long you should wash your hands.
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