Sanitation and the importance of it. . . Especially while cooking in the street.

Sanitation . . . . Anywhere and everywhere you live you see interesting things.  After living in at least 5 different states and spending considerable time in over 10, I have seen my share of wild and crazy.  Sometimes these sanitation issues just kind of “pop up” and you are left wondering “why” or “how?”

Luckily after experiencing and/or witnessing these things, I have the opportunity to apply good sanitation in my daily life and use the examples of bad sanitation either as a “good idea” or “bad idea.”

This was . . . well. . . a bad idea. 

New Mexico Street BBQ

While cruising around the streets of Farmington, New Mexico an old familiar aroma filled my nostrils, BBQ!  I can smell it from a mile away and my mouth starts watering the second I get any of hint of it.  Smell, sight sounds (BBQ people are usually loud), I love it all and I yearn for it.

Except for when it looks like this . . .  Keep in mind, I wish I was exagerating.

Out side of a local latino market a good old grilling time is taking place.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the people standing around picking up and touching and licking (yes licking) the cooking meat. 

As you can see, these whole chickens are smoking away.  I wish I had caught a picture of the raw chickens piled on a sheet pan on the opposite side of the grill.  Probably not the best place for those . . .  My favorite part was when the person cooking them came out, took a drink of his beverage and then poured a little on smoldering poultry.  Since I don’t like backwash in any shape or form, let’s just say that this was not exactly “appetizing.”  Proper sanitation practices being followed? I think not.

Oh look, a nice pot of who knows what (looks like pork) just bubbling away.  The straw that broke the camel’s back was when one of the locals finished his cigarette and accidently flipped it into the pot.  Of course he tryed to fish it out with his hand, which didn’t work that well (hot pot+bare hand=trouble).  So he grabbed a piece of paper out of the garbage and successfully flung the discard butt from the boiling caulderon.  Yummy.  Proper sanitation, out the window at this point.

You may be asking, “So, if this is the wrong sanitation way then what is the right way?”  Well here it is . . .

(Taken from The First Timer’s Cookbook)

Before you start chopping, assembling or anything of the sort, remember to start, stay, and finish clean!  Proper sanitation will keep you safe! Poor Sanitation may kill you!


Because most cases of food poisoning are a result of people cooking in their own homes. That’s right—we are actually making ourselves sick by not following the proper principles that will keep us safe.

Principles of Food Safety or Sanitation

# 1: Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Avoid the “Danger Zone” between 40 and 140 degrees. Don’t let foods stay in this area for any longer than they have to. So if it’s hot, hold it above 140 degrees, and if it’s cold, keep it below 40 degrees.

#2: Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least twenty seconds before and after handling food. Bacteria can be spread all over your kitchen just by you not washing your hands properly. A good trick to this is to hum, whistle, or even sing your ABC’s to yourself. This is a trick I use because from start to finish it usually takes about twenty seconds.

#3: Don’t cross-contaminate. Cross contamination can occur when the bacteria transfer from one food to another through a shared surface. Don’t let juices from raw meat, poultry or seafood come in contact with already-cooked foods or foods that will be eaten raw. For example, when you’re cooking, don’t put cooked meat on the same plate that held the raw meat. Also, don’t cut carrots on the same cutting board you just used to trim the fat off the chicken breast.

#4: Use the fridge to thaw items. Do not thaw meat, poultry or seafood on the kitchen counter. As a good rule, allow one day for every five pounds of weight. If you don’t have time for this and you thaw in the microwave, then make sure to cook it as soon as possible. Whenever I thaw something I always put a plate or something else underneath it to catch the juices so that if it does bleed it will not get all over the fridge.

#5: Never leave meat or dairy products at room temperature for over 3 hours. Your local health department will actually probably allow for up to four hours, but I say three hours to be on the safe side.  Although it’s a good idea to do this for all types of perishable food, it is crucial with meat and dairy products.

 #6: Clean as you go. Another tip to keep things clean and to help you stay healthy is to clean as you go. Every chef that I have either worked under or with, always teaches their employees to do this. A professional kitchen moves very fast and there is no time for messing with clutter or for cleaning up after someone else.

            So remember, whenever you are in the kitchen (or on the streets of New Mexico), clean as you go and keep it safe, clean and sanitary.  Sanitation is important!

About the author, Shawn

Chef Shawn has worked in almost every segment of the foodservice industry. He holds business degrees and certificates in Culinary Arts, Hospitality & Tourism Management, Accounting and Professional Sales. He is Certified Executive Chef (CEC) and a Certified Culinary Educator (CCE) through The American Culinary Federation. A Certified Culinary Professional (CCP) through the International Association of Culinary Professionals. He is the author of The First Timer’s Cookbook and The First Timer’s Bakebook. His work has been recognized nationwide as well as being a regular contributor to numerous food service publications and outlets and is the recipient of numerous awards-most recently the 2015 Culinary Educator of the Year through the local American Culinary Federation’s chapter-Beehive State Chef’s Association.

He the owner of multiple food service businesses and currently the host of the Business Chef Podcast.


  1. Tyrone Jamal on 10/09/2008 at 10:01 PM

    Oh you little rascal… That is some great info. You are such a great guys. Thanks for the sanitation tips

  2. Nancy Miles on 11/17/2008 at 2:46 AM


    Good reminder not to eat off the street.

    I spent 4 days in Phoenix, with Karen, doing a signing. She told me you were moving back here soon. Guess you got out of the restaurant business, right?

    Hope you get back and established here in the valley.

    Best regards, Nancy

  3. Silicone cookware on 03/06/2009 at 8:24 PM

    I think that food safety is very important. It is terrible to get a food borne illness because someone else can be so careless.

Leave a Comment