Cook food that is safe to eat for your family and your guests. Prevent food poisoning and the spread of bacteria with cooking etiquette.

What cooking etiquette is

Cooking etiquette is necessary but too often overlooked. If you cook, you have the duty to feed yourself, your family, and your guests food that is safe to eat.

Cooking etiquette is the set of rules to safely store, handle, and cook food. The main goal of such kitchen rules is to prevent food poisoning and the spread of bacteria.

If you are hosting, follow cooking etiquette to serve your guests food that is safe to eat.

Kitchen rules to cook food safely

Cooking etiquette rules

The 4 C of food safety

1) Respect the 4 C’s

Cooking etiquette starts with the 4 basic principles of food safety at home, known as the four C’s:

  • Cleaning. Hands, surfaces, and equipment must be clean before, during, and after cooking.
  • Avoiding Cross-contamination. Prevent the spread of bacteria to surfaces and to food.
  • Cooking. Cook food properly to kill harmful bacteria.
  • Chilling. Store food at the correct temperature to prevent its decay and the growth of harmful bacteria.

2) Clean utensils and cooking areas

Make sure all the utensils, plates, surfaces, and cooking areas are clean. Clean faucets and counters often with anti-bacterial spray or bleach. Look out for dust, grease, and pests.

Avoid cross-contamination. Use separate cutting boards for raw meats, fish, vegetables and produce, or cooked foods. If you use the same cutting board for different foods, clean it with hot soapy water and vinegar to remove bacteria.

How to check food freshness

3) Check the freshness of your food

Before cooking, etiquette requires checking thoroughly each ingredient.

Make sure that the food is fresh and clean. Check the look and the smell of each ingredient. Always read the expiration dates.

Wash food with running water before cooking it. Wash fruit and vegetable before peeling them. Apply extra care with foods that may be exposed to pesticides.

kitchen personal hygiene rules

4) Strictly follow personal hygiene etiquette

Personal hygiene rules are the cornerstone of cooking etiquette.

Always clean your hands before cooking or handling food. If you take a break to do another activity, and then resume cooking, clean your hands again. Pay special attention to your fingernails. 

Wear clean clothes while cooking. Avoid clothes that are dirty, greasy, or that you have not washed in a while.

Take measures to prevent hair from falling into cooking pans or plates. For example, restaurant chefs and kitchen staff must wear a hat.

Do not taste food with the same utensil that you are using to cook. Instead, do it with your individual spoon or fork.

If you need to sneeze or cough, walk away from the cooking area. Do not sneeze or cough on food. Doing so is bad manners.

Do not touch your face, nose, ears, or eyes while cooking. If you can not resist the urge, wash your hands again afterward.

5) Safeguard food temperature

Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot.

fridge and freezer safe temperatures

Keep your refrigerator at 4ºC (40ºF) or colder. The freezer should be at or below 0ºC (32ºF).

list of safe temperatures to cooking foods according to etiquette

Cook foods to safe temperatures. The chart above shows the safe minimum cooking temperatures according to

6) Allow a clean space for your guests

It is good cooking etiquette to cook far from your guests’ sight. However, on informal occasions, it is common and even appropriate to allow your guests in the cooking area. Informal meals or a barbecue are examples.

Cook as much as possible before your guests arrive. Thus, it may be best to avoid food that requires last-minute processing.

When you cook in the presence of others, try to contain the mess. Allow a clean space and accommodate your guests there.

cooking etiquette mistakes

Cooking etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst cooking etiquette mistakes. 

  • 10/10. Not washing your hands.
  • 10/10. Not cleaning food. 
  • 9/10. Failing to check the food’s freshness.
  • 9/10. Cooking on dirty surfaces.
  • 8/10. Cooking with dirty equipment.