The pleasant feelings that accompany a good home-cooked meal can quickly turn dark when food safety is compromised by disease-causing germs. Practicing safe food preparation and having the appropriate kitchen countertops can help prevent foodborne illness. Here are our recommendations.
Practice Safe Food Preparation
According to Centers for Disease Control, there are more than 250 foodborne diseases. Most of these are caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Foodborne illnesses can happen to anyone, but older adults, young children, pregnant women, and people with underlying conditions are especially susceptible. Whether you are following a recipe or warming up already-prepared food, here are some guidelines for avoiding cross-contamination and properly handling food:
- thoroughly washing your hands, utensils, food preparation surfaces, fruits, and vegetables
- keeping raw meats and their juices separated from ready-to-eat foods
- cooking food to the appropriate temperature to kill germs
- thaw food in the refrigerator, refrigerate perishable foods at 40°F or below, and discard food before it spoils
Kitchen Countertops Safe for Food Preparation
In addition to practicing safe food preparation, these countertop materials are ideal for maintaining a sanitary cooking area.
If budget constraints are a big concern, laminate is an ideal choice for kitchen countertops. As long as you use a cutting board to avoid scratches notorious for harboring germs, laminate is a relatively attractive countertop material. There are a few drawbacks to laminate. Since it is layered, if the top layer is damaged, the countertop can no longer be considered safe for food preparation. Although laminate can come in a stone-like design, it does look cheap compared to higher end materials. When it comes time to sell a home, potential buyers likely will not be impressed with laminate tops.
For attractive, durable countertops with decent resale value, many homeowners look to quartz and solid surfaces. Although these materials are very similar in appearance, there are a few differences. Quartz tops are made mostly with ground quartz and binding materials. Solid surfaces are made of mineral or marble dust and plastic resins. Quartz and solid surfaces look more like stone than laminate ever could, but lack the premium, high-end appearance of real natural stone slabs. Engineered stone countertops can be repaired and restored because they are not layered like laminate.
Because it is sourced straight from the earth, natural stone countertops are truly unique with veined patterns, textures, reflectivity, and clarity. Natural stone has unrivaled, lasting elegance that makes a positive impression and adds value to the space. For people who love to cook and spend time in the kitchen, natural stone is an excellent choice. Some stones are softer than others, but with a cutting board most natural stone wears well on countertops. Granite is not impervious to damage, but it is highly desirable because of its scratch resistance. Natural stone should be periodically cleaned and sealed, and may need to be honed and polished when the finish gets dull. Properly maintained natural stone can last a lifetime.
Because it is non-porous, can withstand extreme abuse, and is extremely easy to clean and maintain, stainless steel is a durable, sanitary countertop material for food preparation. However, stainless steel is not popular for residential kitchens because of its unattractive, industrial appearance.
How to Properly Sanitize Kitchen Countertops
Spray and thoroughly wet the countertop with disinfectant and allow it to dwell on the countertop for 3-5 minutes. If you are cleaning natural stone, be sure to check the label to verify it is a stone-safe cleaner; otherwise you may end up damaging the finish. If you prefer, use this DIY disinfectant solution: one half rubbing alcohol mixed with one half water. Rinse with clean water and then dry with a microfiber cloth.
This is one of a series of articles written and published on behalf of Surface Care PRO Partners.