Here are some important tips to keep your bento safe:
- Wash your hands and make sure your bento box is clean.
- Use clean utensils (chopsticks etc) or plastic gloves when you touch food. Your hands have germs and it’s better to avoid touching with hands. If you touch one food to the other with the same utensil, wipe off the utensil in between, or simply use another utensil. If you decide to wash it, then make sure your utensil is completely dry before picking up another food.
- Highly recommend to re-heat pre-cooked/leftover food before packing. If you do so, I also recommend to heat up with a pan or toaster oven instead of microwave so that food, especially meat, is heated THOROUGHLY and not partially.
- Before you pack cold/cool food in your bento box, hot/warm rice must be cooled down. It’s dangerous when hot/warm rice heat up other food halfway because bad bacteria would start growing.
- Remove all liquid from the food which could spoil faster.
- To avoid risk of any bad bacteria starting to grow (bacteria love a warm moist environment), you must cool down the food first before closing the bento, especially if the lunch box will stay at room temperature until lunch time.
- Use ice packs to keep food fresh and safe till lunch time.
Why do we reheat food?
Japanese Bento is meant to eat at room temperature. Please remember that the longer food has been lying around, it gets less fresh, even you put ice pack or keep it in the refrigerator.
Therefore, I highly recommend to reheat cooked food before packing lunch. Reheating cooked food kills bacteria. It’s better to take extra safety precaution especially if you live in humid or hot weather.
All you need to do is to reheat the food, let it cool down completely before closing the bento box (bacteria grows in warm moist environment), and then keep the bento cool with ice pack whole time with till lunch time.
However, if you can keep your bento box cool all the time and can reheat prior to lunch, it is okay to pack lunch previous night instead of reheating and packing in the morning before you leave the house.