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11 Things in Your Kitchen You Need to Throw Away Now

11 Things in Your Kitchen You Need to Throw Away Now
From TIME - March 16, 2018

When it comes to keeping or tossing the stuff in our kitchens, we tend to waffle: Do I need to get rid of that old cutting board? Is this leftover chicken still good? To get to the bottom of these debates once and for all, we reached out to Marianne Gravely, a senior technical information specialist at the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA. Here, she points out 11 things you should really throw away ASAP.

Your sponge

Maybe youre microwaving or boiling it to remove germs, but as Gravely notes, its really hard to clean a sponge: Its got all those holes in it, she says. Even in these studies they did where they boiled them, there will still pathogens there.

The USDA recommends replacing your dish sponge frequently, but Gravely herself doesnt use them at all. A washcloth is her cleaning agent of choice, because it wont hold on to things like a sponge will. You could also use paper towels, but for environmentally conscious folks, thats not an option. If you do choose a washcloth, change it up often; Gravely swaps hers out every couple of days, and adds, If it smells, it needs washing, whether its a sponge or a washcloth.

One caveat? If youre cooking, and youve got [raw meat] thats leaked on your counter, thats when you want to use a paper towel and throw it away.

Leftovers you dont remember cooking

Spot leftovers in the back of the fridge that you dont remember putting there? Your best bet is to toss them. Use cooked food or leftovers after three to four days, says Gravely. If you have no memory of serving it, its been there too long. And for heavens sake, if you see mold, dont eat it. She recommends the USDA FoodKeeper app so you can set calendar reminders for freezing (or eating) your leftovers.

Snowy freezer items

If that Tupperware in the freezer is so crystallized it conjures a Disney film, its time to let it go. Gravely says that, assuming you handled the food correctly during prep and refrigeration, bacteria arent the issue. But if you see lots of ice crystals, lots of snow, or its really dry-looking and you cant tell what it is, its not going to taste very good.

Expired or separated condiments

Who among us hasnt held on to a bottle of Sriracha long past its best used by date? Sometimes we buy sauces for special recipes and then never use them again, Gravely points out. But theres no good reason to keep expired condiments. Take a look; if theyre starting to separate, theyre probably no good. If they dont look right, you probably dont want to keep them anymore.

Baking powder that doesnt work

Baking powder is arguably more likely to lose its oomph than baking soda, because it is not purely sodium bicarbonate, as baking soda is. (It also includes an acid, such as cream of tartar, and a moisture-absorber like cornstarch.) If yours has a shockingly old date stamped on it, test it! The New Food Lovers Companion recommends combining a teaspoon with 1/3 cup of hot water, and if it bubbles enthusiastically, its fine.

Open cartons of broth

Old spices

Egg yolks or whites

Your scratched-up cutting board

Scratched nonstick pans

Meat that smells off

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