Proper handling of meats including poultry can help prevent the spread of food borne illnesses such as avian flu (H5N1 virus), salmonella and E. coli to name a few. There are a number of issues ranging from purchase to food storage in the freezer to proper cooking that must be addressed in order to ensure that meat is handled safely. How was the meat handled prior to purchase and from the store to your home? How long is it safe to keep meats in the freezer? Can you refreeze meats? What is the proper internal temperature for cooking meats including poultry? Below are the answers to these questions and some tips for avoiding the bacteria and viruses that may be in meat and poultry.
Things You Will Need
Meat thermometer, Appliance thermometers for the refrigerator and freezer, Separate cutting boards for meat and other food items
Good hygiene is of up most importance. Always wash your hands well before and after touching meat. Cross contamination can occur when preparing foods by touching meat or poultry and then touching another food item. In addition, always maintain a healthy environment in the kitchen and any other area that you prepare foods. Always disinfect work surfaces and countertops.
Always store meat at the proper temperature in the freezer or refrigerator. Use appliance thermometers to verify that the temperature in the freezer is maintained at or below 0F and the refrigerator is below 40F. Bacteria grow and multiply rapidly between 40F and 140F. Meat and poultry can be refrozen if it was thawed in the refrigerator or if it was frozen at the store where purchased and handled properly afterward. However, there may be a loss of quality due to the loss of moisture during defrosting. Freezing keeps meat safe almost indefinitely. As with refreezing, there may be a loss of quality due to conditions such as freezer burn.
Proper preparation is the next step in safe handling of meat. Always store and prepare raw meat separately from other foods. One drop of juice from raw meat or poultry can contaminate other foods, especially foods such as raw fruits and vegetables that will not be cooked. If at all possible, prepare the meats and other items in separate locations in the kitchen or prepare the meat first and then disinfect the area and any utensils prior to preparing the rest of the meal. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for meat and for the other food items.
The next step is to ensure the meat is properly cooked. If you are using a microwave to cook meat, always stir or rotate the meat half-way through the time to eliminate cold spots where bacteria can survive. Also, if you are defrosting or partially cooking meat in the microwave to finish on the grill or in the oven, do so immediately. Do not let partially cooked meat sit out or store it for use later. Whether you are cooking meat in the microwave, oven or on the grill, always use a meat thermometer to verify the food has reached a safe temperature for consumption. Check the meat in several places away from fat or bone. The USDA recommends the following for internal cooking temperatures:
Beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts, and chops 145F
Pork â€“ all cuts 160F
Ground beef, veal and lamb 160F
All poultry a minimum of 165F
Proper handling of meats including poultry can help prevent the spread of food borne illnesses. Having the knowledge and using the proper methods for handling meat can help in avoiding the bacteria and viruses that may be in meat and poultry.