Monday, June 17, 2019

Cooking Meat Safely


1.  Proper meat cooking for safe results begins with purchasing the meat.
  • Purchase fresh meat and poultry last before checkout.
  • Meat should feel cold in the store. Any meat product that feels warm has not been properly stored and could be unhealthy.
  • Look for packages that are tightly wrapped with no tears or punctures in the wrapping. If the product is vacuum packed, be sure the seal has not been broken and the package is not leaking.
  • Avoid packages with excessive liquid around the fresh meat, or ice around frozen meat. This might mean it had been stored improperly.
  • Check the sell-by date on the package to ensure freshness. If you buy meat or poultry on or right before the sell-by date, be sure to freeze it as soon as you get home or prepare it that day.
  • Wrap the meat package in a plastic bag before you put it in the grocery cart to avoid leaking meat juices onto other food products.
  • If the grocery store is more than 30 minutes from home, transport purchased meat products in an ice chest or cooler.
2.  Store the meat carefully before preparation.
  • Refrigerate purchased meat and poultry as soon as you get home from the store.
  • Keep meat cold in the meat compartment or coldest part of the refrigerator to inhibit the growth of bacteria that cause spoilage. Be sure the temperature of your refrigerator is 40 degrees F (4 degrees C) or lower.
  • Keep refrigerated meat packages on a tray or in a plastic bag so the meat juices do not leak onto other food.
  • If you freeze meat or poultry for use within a week, do so in its original store wrapping. If you plan to keep the meat in the freezer for more than a week, it should be removed from the store wrapping and rewrapped securely in freezer paper or plastic freezer bags.
3.  During preparation, it is important to avoid contamination of meat and other foods.
  • Wash your hands carefully in hot soapy water before and after handling fresh meat and poultry.
  • Keep fresh meat and poultry and their juices away from other foods, both in the refrigerator and in the preparation area.
  • If the meat was frozen, the safest way to defrost it is by letting it sit in the refrigerator. Never defrost at room temperature, as that allows harmful bacteria to grow.
  • To defrost a package of meat more quickly in cold water, leave it in its original packaging or in a leak-proof bag if the packaging is not air-tight. Submerge the package completely in cold water. 
  • Change the water every 30 minutes so the meat stays cool while it thaws.
  • Some microwaves come with a defrost feature. This works quickly but can begin to cook the meat in random areas. These spots become warm enough for bacteria to grow, so microwave-defrosted meat and poultry should be cooked immediately.
  • As soon as meat and poultry has been prepared for cooking, wash all cutting surfaces, utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water. If possible, use a special dedicated cutting board only for fresh meat and poultry.
  • Never put cooked foods on the same board, tray or platter that was used for fresh meat or poultry before it was cooked. When grilling, use separate plates to transport fresh and cooked meats.
4.  Meat should be cooked to the correct internal temperature. This will kill harmful bacteria that might be in the fresh meat.
  • The best way to know if meat is cooked thoroughly is to use an instant-read or ovenproof meat thermometer, which can help you avoid both undercooking and overcooking. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, but do not let it touch bone. If pieces of meat are irregular in size, check a few of them to be sure they are all cooked to the appropriate temperature.
  • Slow cookers or crockpots are very safe ways to cook fresh meat and poultry. These kitchen tools will keep meat and poultry at a safe temperature as long as they are operating.
  • Frozen meat and poultry may be safely cooked in the oven, grilled, or on the stove without defrosting, although the cooking time may be up to 50% longer for the meat to come to the correct internal temperature.
  • It is not safe to cook frozen meat and poultry in a slow cooker or crockpot.
5. After serving your meat dish, if there are leftovers to be used in a later meal, proper storage is again important.
  • Chill leftover meats quickly before storing in the refrigerator or freezer to hinder bacterial growth. Spread large amounts out in a shallow container or divide large quantities into several smaller portions.
  • Ensure proper airflow around leftover containers in the refrigerator or freezer. Do not pack them tightly. This helps maintain the proper temperature in the compartment.
  • Label the leftover container with the date it was put into the refrigerator or freezer. Cooked meat and poultry will be safe in the refrigerator for 3-4 days; it will last in the freezer up to 4 months. If you are unsure how long the cooked food has been stored, throw it out.

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