Think you know everything about food safety? Most of us feel like we've got all figured out. We know exactly how long the leftovers are good for, and we know that you shouldn't leave the milk on the counter all day. But there are some common beliefs about keeping your food, kitchen and cutting board safe that are just, well, wrong. And while we all know we shouldn't thaw meat on the counter, or chop veggies on the same board as raw steak, that doesn't always stop us. So here are some of the most popular myths about food safety we've chosen to dispel:

  • It's okay to thaw meat on your counter - WRONG. Bacteria multiply rapidly at room temperature. Thaw in the refrigerator, cold water or microwave. Or you can always cook it straight from frozen.
  • You don't need to wash fruits or vegetables if you're going to peel them - WRONG. The action of peeling can transfer bacteria from the outside of the food to the inside, and then you slice it, eat it and then...bad things can happen. Wash your fruits and veggies before and after peeling them.
  • You should use soap or detergent to wash your produce. NOT SO. The residue left over from those cleansers are not safe to consume. Washing your produce under running water is your best bet.
  • The reason you have to let microwaved food stand after cooking is that it's too hot to eat. NOT EXACTLY. Food continues to cook after it comes out of the microwave, so letting it stand for the specified time allows the heat to spread more evenly.
  • Once food has been cooked, all the bacteria have been "nuked" so you don't need to worry about it once it's "done". WRONG. Bacterial growth can increase as the cooked food cools down. It's important to keep it at the right temperature until it's served.
  • Leftovers are safe to eat until they smell bad. NO! NO! NO! Some bacteria don't affect the look or smell of the food the infect. Use this guide for food storage:
  • Use 3 separate cutting boards - one for fresh produce, one for raw meats and another for ready-to-eat foods.
  •  Wash your cutting boards with soap and water after each use, or put them in dishwasher.
  • Replace plastic and wood boards regularly. If you can't clean the indentations and grooves then throw them away.
  • Sanitize boards by soaking in a solution of 1 gallon of water to one tablespoon of chlorine bleach. Allow your boards to air dry.

With these tips in mind, you can help keep your kitchen and the food you eat safe and clean. Because anyone who's experienced food poisoning or leftovers-gone-bad can tell you there are only a select few things in life that are more unpleasant than that.