Develop Effective Modern Kitchen Management Skills

If you think that technology and management have entered only our industries and management institutes, you are wrong. These have entered our kitchen also in a big way to change life, especially for women. In fact, the modern kitchen has greatly helped in the empowerment of women.

The changeover from traditional firewood/kerosene to LPG, has revolutionised cleanliness and the environment, and the pressure cooker has helped housewives to reduce cooking time drastically. With the use of the refrigerator, mixer-grinder, microwave oven, electric chimney, etc, the kitchen has totally changed - and so has the way we used to cook and preserve food in the kitchen.

The design and layout are to be taken care of by the architect or the civil engineer while constructing the kitchen. But other things are to be taken care of by the person operating the kitchen. A safe kitchen is one of the first steps in protecting yourself and your family from food-borne illness and the potential dangers of harmful bacteria as well as protecting the person working in the kitchen from LPG leakage and subsequent explosion.

The most common problem in food safety is the attack from bacteria and contamination due to lack of proper cleanliness. To avoid this:

Wash hands often.

Keep raw meat and ready-to-eat foods separate.

Cook food at proper temperature.

Refrigerate food promptly to below 4C.

Hands should be washed in warm, soapy water before preparing foods, especially after handling raw meat, poultry and seafood. Never forget to wash your hands after switching tasks, such as handling raw meat and then cutting vegetables. Also, it is important to wash hands after taking out garbage, sneezing or petting your dog or cat, etc.

Other precautions

- Always use two cutting boards: one strictly to cut raw meat, poultry and seafood; another for ready-to-eat foods like breads, fruits an vegetables.
- After each use, wash cutting boards thoroughly in hot soapy water.
- Discard cutting boards that are worn out with cracks, crevices and excessive knife scars.
- Wash plates between uses or use separate plates: one plate for holding raw meat, poultry and seafood; another for cooked roods.
- Place raw meat, poultry and seafood on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so that the juices don't drip onto other foods.
- Place washed produce in clean storage containers; not back into the original ones.
- Use two separate clean towels/cloths: one to dry off the kitchen surfaces and another one to dry your hands.
- Use one spoon or laddle to taste food and another to stir and mix food.
- Make sure that you use clean scissors or blades to open bags of food.
- Wear latex gloves if you have a cut or sore on your hand.

Sponges are safe only when cleaned properly. Bacteria live and grow in damp conditions. Wash dishcloth, sponges and towels often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.

Disinfect sponges in chlorine bleach solution. Replace worn-out sponges frequently.

In the cupboard

Clean and cool, dark and dry, are how you should describe your cupboards. Storing non-refrigerated foods in the cupboard between 50F and 70F is the smartest way to keep the bugs away.

Keeping canned foods on hand is smart and practical, but make sure that your stock is rotated. Remember the FIFO method - first in, first out. That means older cans should be up in front so that they are used first. The safest place for a can that is leaking, bulging or cracked, is in the garbage!

Once you have opened a package, make sure that the leftovers are stored in containers that are dry and airtight. This keeps insects out and the flavour in.

Store food safely. Keep chemicals and cleaning agents away from food.

Inside the refrigerator

If there is more mould on your bread than in a pound of blue cheese, or you suddenly notice the remains of last month's pot roast at the back of your refrigerator, it's time to get organised. Step one is to keep your refrigerator cold. Most people have no idea what the actual temperature in their refrigerator is.

Since harmful bacteria thrive in warmer temperature, it's best to keep your refrigerator temperature below 4C. Spending a few dollars on an inexpensive thermometer is a worthwhile investment. Place it in the centre of the middle shelf for an accurate reading.

The internal temperature of your refrigerator is based on many variables - for example, the amount of food in storage, the frequency of opening the refrigerator door, and the temperature of your kitchen. The best way to monitor the inside cooling temperature of your refrigerator is with a refrigerator thermometer.

Keep raw meat containers on the lowest shelf. This helps to keep any juice from dripping onto other foods. If your refrigerator is overloaded, take the time to get rid of the unnecessary items. Cold air should circulate.

Any fridge can benefit from a thorough wipe-down. Get rid of any splatters. Once any food has passed its prime, get rid of it. Get into the habit of dating your leftovers and get rid of anything that has been stored for more than four days.

Food should not be out of refrigeration for more than two hours. Because, if it is exposed to temperature above 4C, harmful bacteria will multiply rapidly. In hot weather (above 32C), the time is reduced to one hour.

If you are not sure that an item is safe to eat, trust your instinct and discard it. Don't taste it! If there is any sign of mould, that's another strong reason to dispense with it.

In the freezer

The FIFO method works in the freezer, too. Make sure that your foods are rotated so that you use older items first. An organised freezer makes it easier to find things, too.

Always be prepared

You never know when you will need a little extra on hand. So, stock a supply of non-perishable foods for unexpected needs. Canned fruits, soups and vegetables, peanut butter and nuts are simple staples. Make sure that your emergency stash gets a review every now and then.

Drinking water

Drinking water is the major cause of disease. Full care should be taken. Water for drinking should be boiled as boiling kills all the bacteria and virus. Instead of boiling, ultraviolet water filter can also be used for purifying drinking water in the kitchen.

To ensure safety from LPG leakage:

Use ISI-mark LPG tubes.

Always keep the cylinder in a vertical position.

Regularly check for cracks in the LPG rubber tube.

Keep the kitchen airy with cross-ventilation.

Place the gas stove on a raised platform because LPG is heavier than air and tends to settle on the base.

Do not operate a stove near or facing a window.

Switch off the regulator when cooking gas is not in use, especially at night.

Do not repair the gas stove or cylinder yourself. Whenever required, call the expert from the gas agency.

When it leaks...

Do not operate any electrical switch if you smell LPG leakage.

Never use a lighted lamp to locate the leak. Use soap water solution.

Open all doors and windows.

Call your LPG distributor or Emergency Service Cell.

Close regulator and burner knob.

How to make your kitchen fuel-efficient:

- Organise your cooking. Keep all ingredients ready for cooking. This will help you cook without delay and thus save gas.
- If you have to stop cooking for a short while, shut off the gas.
- Use a pressure cooker to save gas and reduce cooking time.
- Use the small burner. A large burner consumes 15% more gas.
- Always use flat and shallow vessels.
- Cover the vessel while cooking
- Use the required quantity of water while cooking. Surplus water requires more heating and, therefore more gas.
- Bring out frozen materials well in advance to reach room temperature before cooking.
- If the flame is blue, everything is fine. If the outlet holes are blocked and the flame is yellow, clean the burner or get your stove checked by a mechanic.

With the increase of solid waste generated in the kitchen, it becomes a major source of pollution. Solid waste disposal is also becoming a part of kitchen management. Try kitchen manager (the olden days title of 'cook' is obsolete for the new housewife) has to take care of solid waste disposal also. For this, the waste generated in the kitchen should be segregated in the kitchen itself into the biodegradable and the non-degradable. The non-degradable should be put in a separate bin. The biodegradable part may be used to produce bio-fertiliser/organic fertiliser in a pit for the kitchen garden. If the facility does not exist, the biodegradable part may be separately handed over to the garbage collector who will use the same for vermiculture to produce organic manure. With water becoming a scarce commodity in the cities, the kitchen manager should also take care to recycle the waste water generated in the kitchen to be used in the kitchen garden, flower beds, etc.

SALIENT FEATURES OF MODERN KITCHEN MANAGEMENT

Scientific design and layout of the kitchen for light, cross-ventilation etc.

Better arrangement of kitchen appliances like gas stove, fridge, water filter, racks, cabinet etc.

Good housekeeping.

Cleanliness and hygiene.

Safety (food safety and personal safety).

Preparation of food without destroying its nutritious values.

Preservation of vegetables and cooked food.

Good cooking habits and conservation of fuel.

Proper disposal of solid waste generated in the kitchen.

Recycling the waste water from the kitchen in the kitchen garden.