Four Steps to Food Safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill

4 steps to food safety banner

Following four simple steps at home—Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill—can help protect you and your loved ones from food poisoning.

Clean: Wash your hands and surfaces often.

  • Germs that cause food poisoning can survive in many places and spread around your kitchen.
  • Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before, during, and after preparing food and before eating.
  • Wash your utensils, cutting boards, and countertops with hot, soapy water.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.

Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate.

  • Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can spread germs to ready-to-eat foods—unless you keep them separate.
    • Use separate cutting boards and plates for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
    • When grocery shopping, keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from other foods.
    • Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods in the refrigerator.

Cook to the right temperature.

  • Food is safely cooked when the internal temperature gets high enough to kill germs that can make you sick. The only way to tell if food is safely cooked is to use a food thermometer. You can’t tell if food is safely cooked by checking its color and texture.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature. Check this chart for a detailed list of temperatures and foodsexternal icon, including shellfish and precooked ham.
    • Whole cuts of beef, veal, lamb, and pork, including fresh ham (raw): 145°F (then allow the meat to rest for 3 minutes before carving or eating)
    • Fish with fins: 145°F or cook until flesh is opaque
    • Ground meats, such as beef and pork: 160°F
    • All poultry, including ground chicken and turkey: 165°F
    • Leftovers and casseroles: 165°F

Chill: Refrigerate promptly.

Bacteria can multiply rapidly if left at room temperature or in the “Danger Zone” between 40°F and 140°F. Never leave perishable food out for more than 2 hours (or 1 hour if exposed to temperatures above 90°F).

  • Keep your refrigerator at 40°F or below and know when to throw food outexternal icon.
  • Refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours. If the food is exposed to temperatures above 90°F (like a hot car or picnic), refrigerate it within 1 hour.
  • Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Never thaw foods on the counter because bacteria multiply quickly in the parts of the food that reach room temperature.

Bacteria can multiply rapidly if left at room temperature or in the “Danger Zone” between 40°F and 140°F. Never leave perishable food out for more than 2 hours (or 1 hour if exposed to temperatures above 90°F).

10 Dangerous Food Safety Mistakes
Close of a person chopping veggies on a wood board

Learn how to protect yourself and your family from food poisining by avoiding 10 common food safety mistakes.

Learn More