Food Safety Tips: Raw Meat
by Emily Kaltman
Restaurants are held to strict standards of food safety, but food safety practices shouldn’t stop as you leave the cafe. It is important to practice proper food safety at home, especially when handling raw meats. These tips can act as a quick review before you cook your next meal for yourself or your family.
Step One: Cleaning
Before you begin and after you finish handling raw meat, it is extremely important to sanitize your cooking area. Bacteria can survive on all sorts of surfaces, so wash your hands and cooking utensils (knives, cutting boards, etcetera) with soap and water. Other tips:
- Do not rinse raw meat, because this can spread bacteria around your sink and splash onto other surfaces.
- Be sure to sanitize any cooking surfaces, like countertops, that may have come in contact with uncooked meat.
- Clean in between preparing different food items to avoid cross-contamination, too.
- Dry off with a clean towel.
Step Two: Prevent Cross-Contamination
Cross-contamination happens when bacteria is spread between foods. For example, using the same cutting board you used to cut chicken on to chop carrots.
- Use different cutting boards, utensils and plates for produce and raw seafood, poultry or meat.
- Before reusing them, wash plates, utensils, and cutting boards with hot soapy water to sanitize them.
- Consider placing raw meat in a plastic bag after a trip to the grocery store in order to keep juices from dripping through the packaging onto other foods.
Step Three: Safely Cooking Meat
Checking the internal temperature of your meat with a meat thermometer is the only sure way to see if your food if cooked through and ready to eat. Remember, bacteria can still thrive in meat that is between 40 degrees and 140 degrees fahrenheit.
- Using a thermometer is the only sure way to determine if your meat is safely cooked through.
- Be sure to poke the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat without touching bone, fat or gristle, which can disturb the reading.
- Clean the thermometer after each reading to stop the spread of harmful bacteria.
- Keep food warm in a crock pot or chafing dish, because bacteria growth can increase after the food starts to cool. Keep food at 140 degrees fahrenheit.
- Consult a Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart to learn the safest cooking temperatures for the type of meat you are preparing.
Step Four: Leftovers?
Chilling food for later consumption is a good way to get the most out of your meal, but be sure to refrigerate your food within at least two hours of cooking.
- Your fridge should be between 32 and 40 degrees fahrenheit, and your freezer should be 0 degrees or below, fahrenheit.
- Remember, in order for your fridge to stay cool it needs to be able to circulate air properly. So try to arrange food in your fridge accordingly.
- The safest way to thaw meat is in the fridge. Place frozen meat on a plate to catch any juices and set it in the fridge the day before.
- Each type of food has its own amount of time it can sit in the fridge before it is unsafe to eat anymore, which ranges from 1-2 days to two weeks. Research the
Emily Kaltman writes for Estancia Churrascaria, a Brazilian steakhouse in Austin, Texas. She abides by many food safety guidelines in order to live a long and healthy life.
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