Clueless in the Kitchen: New Survey Reveals Young Americans' Biggest Kitchen Conundrums

How are America's young people doing in the kitchen? Do they understand basic food preparation and safety? A national survey sponsored by the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council
reveals that while most 18-34 year olds have some concept of proper kitchen protocol, there are distinct gaps in their knowledge.

The survey, conducted by national research firm StrategyOne, questioned 539 young adults on their everyday kitchen habits, including biggest kitchen mysteries and general knowledge of food safety. 

"Whether they're heading off to college, setting up their first apartment or starting a family, many young adults are unsure of how to store food properly and may be unknowingly taking risks that could lead to food-borne illnesses," said Patty Enneking, Managing Director of the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council. 

Biggest kitchen mysteries
– Of the 539 young Americans (18-34 year olds) surveyed:

  • One third (35%) say "how long can I keep and use leftovers?" is the single biggest  kitchen mystery
  • When asked about freezer storage, 32% say knowing "what to store food in to prevent freezer burn" is the biggest mystery

Survey says sizeable percentages of young adults commit classic kitchen don'ts –
For example:

  • Leave food out on the counter to defrost (28%)
  • Store leftover food in the refrigerator uncovered (16%)
  • Microwave food in containers designed for cold food storage only (18%)

But the good news is
…young adults demonstrated that they understand a few cardinal rules of food safety, storage and heating:

  • Store food in an airtight plastic container (78%)
  • Heat food in containers purchased specifically for microwave use (52%)
  • Read the container label for instructions on proper use (44%)

When all else fails, ask Mom.

Moms reign over all other sources, including the product's label, as the most trusted resource for food preparation and storage advice. The younger end of the spectrum, 18-24 year olds are more likely to ask their moms for help (46%) compared to 28% of those aged 25-34. 

Simple Solutions to Fight Food Disasters

"Being smart in the kitchen really boils down to having the right tools and knowing how to use them properly," said Enneking.  “Fortunately, many everyday food storage and heating dilemmas can be solved by following the directions on a product’s label and investing in a set of plastic containers designed for use in the microwave, freezer and dishwasher." 


The Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council offers these basic storage and heating tips:

  • Divide leftovers into convenient, single-serving sizes and store in the refrigerator or freezer within two hours after cooking. 
  • Store leftovers in airtight containers or sealable bags that are designed for use in the freezer and microwave to save time on preparation and cleanup.
  • Adopt the “First In, First Out” system so food is eaten before it spoils.
  • Never leave food out to defrost at room temperature. Either allow it to defrost in the refrigerator or follow microwave defrosting guidelines.
  • Cover food loosely with plastic wrap when microwaving to help food heat evenly, retain moisture and prevent splatter.  Be careful when removing hot food from the microwave and always check the packaging label for instructions.  Most manufacturers recommend peeling back one corner to allow steam to escape.
  • After use, dispose of one-time-use plastic trays and containers provided with microwaveable meals and always use as directed.



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