Why Not to Watch Food Network for Safe Food

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Food Network is NOT the network to watch if you want to learn how to handle food safely at home.

Sorry, Bobby Flay fans…

Iron Chef America groupies…

Rachel Ray followers…

and Guy Fieri wannabes (although I do like his hair).

Now, I’m a big fan of the Food Network. Hey, I like food!

But, if you watch the shows

are a reader of this web site, you may have already noticed that, should you repeat exactly the same procedures in your kitchen that you see on television, you may find yourself or your family visiting the emergency room (or at least the porcelain throne).

I realize that you’re not watching Food Network for food safety education (that’s why you come to this web site). And we both understand that TV shows are edited in order to make them entertaining. (How exciting is it to see Rachel Ray wash her hands? Well, not very!) But it’s wise to recognize that you can’t do exactly as they do and be sure you’re doing the right things.

There are three different kinds of Food Network shows:

  • #1: Recipe Education Shows
    These programs show you how to cook with certain foods, techniques, or styles.

  • #2: Competition Shows:
    This covers speed and ingredient competitions, pastry and cake competitions, and other contests, including Iron Chef, Worst Cook, and Chopped. You’ll see creativity, stress, and some very talented chefs.

  • #3: Special Interest Shows:
    If you like to travel (or wish you could), or if you like international cuisine, you’ll find a number of shows about cooking and restaurants all over the U.S. and the world.

Sad to say, none of these categories is immune from demonstrating risky food safety practices.

What Are These Food Safety Violations?

It may sound malicious, but occasionally I sit down for a few hours and list every food safety violation perpetrated by chefs and hosts of the Food Network shows I see. To tell you every single no-no would be a bore to both of us, but here are some of the big things I saw.

Hand washing and cook’s hair:

Inevitably, you turn on a recipe show and watch people jumping right in – without washing their hands – to make the delicious dinner that you’re going to try to reproduce Friday night. Whatever they do or don’t do before they begin, you’d better make sure that your hands are clean!

Sometimes I count how many times aspiring chefs don’t wash hands after touching raw chicken, fish or meat. In one show, the competing cooks should have washed their hands thoroughly at least twenty times – and never did. They just wiped them off on an apron, a towel, or something else. The shows never mention whether the judges had to deal with salmonella later. But you might think more carefully about your friends and family.

Some restaurant shows give you a chance to visit very cool kitchens producing very interesting food. However, I know that most health departments require kitchen staff workers to wear gloves and hair restraints (hats). In these shows I couldn’t help but notice a number of kitchen employees without them. How did the lack of gloves or the lack of hats affect the interesting food? Will we ever know?

Taking temperatures:

Here’s something else I’ve noticed: in almost every show I’ve watched, NO ONE USES A THERMOMETER! If you’ve read this web site, you’ll know that I practically PREACH thermometers. They MUST be used, even when it’s not “cool.” The fact is that undercooked chicken or fish can make you seriously ill. Why is it that virtually no chef on the Food Network uses them?

To their credit, most of these chefs are very experienced, and perhaps they feel they don’t need to use a thermometer, but that doesn’t mean that you should follow suit. If you don’t take the temperature of the food, how will you know it is properly cooked and OK to serve to your family?

So take temperatures when you’re cooking, even though the hosts of the Food Network don’t.


Cross-contamination issues are everywhere. Cross-contamination can occur when a raw protein or product that might contain germs comes into contact with other food items, some of which may not get cooked. When “juices” from raw chicken get into your salad greens, your salad could be contaminated. When a cutting board used for raw food (like fish or chicken) is also used to cut vegetables, your veggies could be contaminated (which is why you want to wash your vegetable properly first, another thing chefs on the food network don't do). If you use a knife to cut raw meat and then use it to cut bread (without washing it first), the bread could be contaminated. The person who prepares the food can cross-contaminate anything he or she is preparing by not washing hands properly and at the right times.

In all three types of shows – especially the competitions – you may see cross-contamination issues. Best (or should I say worst?) example I saw the other day: a recipe show chef used a cutting board and knife to cut the raw chicken, and then used the same knife and board to cut the romaine lettuce for the sandwich he was making. Now, the chances are that the knife and cutting board were washed (or switched for identical clean items) and that it was edited out of the show. But since no one mentions the cross-contamination issue, all the smart viewer can do is hope that these things took place. It’s something you should be aware of.

So What Should I Do?

Start by knowing the basics of home food safety, including proper preparation and cooking procedures. If you understand the basics, you’ll understand what extra steps should take place in your own kitchen even if you don’t see them on television.

In addition, make sure you understand how food borne illness (food poisoning) starts and spreads. When you understand how and why people can get sick, you will be able to determine if you need to change your practices to keep yourself and your family healthy.

Share What You’ve Seen!

Are you a Food Network junkie? I want to hear from you! Am I right? Am I wrong?

Have you seen something happen on Food Network that you want to share? We want to hear from you, too!

Do You Agree? Disagree? Have A Story To Tell

Are you a Food Network Junkie who agrees with me? Or thinks I'm crazy? Noticed something else about the food network? It's your turn to tell us!

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Food Network Comments...

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Damn right. 
What I have seen would never happen in my kitchen. I go out of my way to make sure raw meats and fresh foods are isolated from each other. There are too …

Don't watch Food Network before you eat; gross! 
AGREE! I have often watched the Food Network and cannot believe some of the things I see the chefs do. I can't believe, for example, that Paula Deen isn't …

You are ABSOLUTELY correct!!! Not rated yet

gross !! Not rated yet
agree!!!!!! 100 % gross gross gross gross !!!!!

The Gross Side Of Network Shows Not rated yet
I agree that many shows are grossly overwhelmed by bacteria. In just one instance of Rachel Ray's show today I observed 20 violations that included eyebrow …

I agree with you. Not rated yet
I agree with all of your concerns! The way that I found your website was by searching to see if there was any behind the scenes information on the web …

I agree with you. Not rated yet
I agree with all of your concerns! The way that I found your website was by searching to see if there was any behind the scenes information on the web …

Agree and Appalled! Not rated yet
I have watched Food Network shows for years and I cringe every time I watch. I try to put on my "I don't see that" glasses with all the chefs because …

I disagree  Not rated yet
Checking the temperature with a thermometer is what you do when you don"t have the skills to do it by sight and touch. The firmness of the protein easily …

Agreeeeeeeeeeeed Not rated yet
I never notic3ed it before :D But you are right!!!! well done mate

You're extremely wrong. Not rated yet
I disagree completely. I think the food network is a great channel to learn how to cook! People should read things online or take a class to learn that …

You are correct Not rated yet
Especially sweat dripping into food they prepare. Have smoke brakes and just walk back in, to cook, visible coming in through the door and never wash hands. …

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