Lubbock, TX (KCBD) - When you cook at home do you handle and store your food the right way?
Restaurants are constantly under the watchful eyes of health inspector who make sure what you eat is safe. But would your kitchen at home make the grade? On the menu at Eleah Lehnen's house, baked chicken, veggies and mashed potatoes.
We asked Maranda Cherry, an environmental health inspector with the city of Lubbock to grade Lehnen's kitchen. She walks through anywhere from 400 to 600 commercial kitchens.
The kitchen looks spotless and Eleah washes her hands constantly but Cherry's eyes catch violations untrained eyes might not even think about.
Lehnen uses cloth towels, which Cherry writes down as a non-critical violation. "We don't allow cloth towels for the simple fact that they are porous and could hold pathogens.
When baking her BBQ chicken, Lehnen opens the oven to see if it is done. She doesn't have a thermometer and uses the fork and knife check to inspect the color. But that type of test doesn't cut it for Cherry's inspection. She writes Lehnen up for not have a thermometer, something she believes many home kitchens do not have.
Cherry writes up Lehnen's jewelry and her long hair that isn't pulled back down as non-critical violations.
Lehnen pours a glass of wine and a glass of water. Both are demerits on her city inspection because if she were in a restaurant she would need lids on her drinks. This violation comes as a shock.
Cherry tallies Lehnen's score. She passes with an 82, having six critical violations.
"She is a great hand washer," says Cherry about Lehnens hygiene in the kitchen. What concerns the inspector is the cloth towels and that one Lehnen caught herself grabbing tongs she has washed out of the dishwasher.
You may not work in a commercial kitchen, so realistically, what are the most important things for your to remember when you are preparing a meal? Cherry says cooking times, and doing whatever it takes to reduce possibility of cross contaminating foods.
"If you can cook at the right temperatures and handle your food properly you are three steps ahead and the last is serving the meal in a clean environment," said Cherry.
Lehnen's kitchen would not be considered a KCBD NewsChannel 11 low performer, but after the test she says there are things that she will think twice about doing.
"I will slow down and take more time because I'm usually in a hurry," said Lehnen who wants to go and buy a meat thermometer to ensure the food she is cooking is at the right temperatures.
Lehnen did pass the inspection, although Cherry says if she has been in a commercial kitchen she would have shown no mercy. If Lehnen's two dogs had been running around while she was cooking she might not have passed, but she was a good sport for letting us put her kitchen to the test.
Cherry says if she had to guess, the average score for home kitchens in Lubbock would be a C, which means there are kitchens that would fail.