Food Saftety Tips When Dealing with Meat

Meat is the best part of the meal. It is flavourful, mouth-watering and succulent. It is packed full of protein and other nutrients that our bodies need to remain healthy and to thrive. Meat is a way of life it is imperative to most of the world and can mean the difference between good health and serious problems.

But if it is not handled safely in the kitchen, meat can become contaminated with bacteria that can make us very sick if consumed. For this reason, meat safety is extremely important and there are rules to follow to handle it properly. Keep these tips in mind as you store and cook your meat. Knowledge is a powerful thing and in the case of meat preparation, it can mean the difference between sickness and health.


STORING MEAT

Fresh meats and poultry should only be stored in the refrigerator or the freezer. Within a half hour of purchasing your fresh meat, make sure it is stored in one of these two ways.


Refrigerator

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When storing in the refrigerator make sure that your fridge’s internal temperatures are kept to 5 degrees C or below to prevent food from spoiling. Make sure that your meat is covered in either its store packaging or butcher paper. You can also store it in plastic sealed baggies or a covered dish until you are ready to use it.

You want to store your meat so that its juices will not run out and leak onto the refrigerator shelving or onto other foods to create contamination. Keep your meat in a separate area or compartment away from other foods. Meats can safely reside in the refrigerator for two days before cooking.


Freezer

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When storing your fresh meat in the freezer, make sure that it is in a freezer safe container or enclosed in a freezer bag to ward off freezer burn. If you are freezing it in its original packaging, make sure that the package is not damaged and that there aren’t any holes that will allow the meat to be exposed.


PREPARING MEAT

  • Once your meat is thawed, always handle it with clean hands and use clean knives and utensils.
  • If you are using a cutting board, make sure that you have a separate one for only meat preparation and wash it with soap and hot water after each use.
  • Wash your workspace immediately after preparing and before you prepare other foods.
  • If you are carrying your freshly prepared meat out to grill, make sure you do not put your cooked meat on the same tray that held your raw meat.
  • Do not allow your meat to sit out long enough to get room temperature. Bacteria begins to build as soon as meat gets warmer than 5 degrees. If you prepare your meat but have a sudden delay in cooking it, place your meat back in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook.


COOKING MEAT

Cook all meat to its suggested internal temperature or more depending on your desired taste. A meat thermometer is a must for every kitchen as it tells you what temperature your type of meat should be cooked.


Refrigerator Thawing

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When you are thawing meat for supper, it is best to take the time and be prepared. The absolute best way to thaw your frozen meat is in the refrigerator. It takes so little time to take your meat from the freezer, put it on a plate or in a dish and place in the refrigerator to thaw.

Do this the night before right as you go to bed or first thing in the morning depending on the size of meat you want to thaw. You can then go about your day as your meat is safely thawing the way it should in your refrigerator. For larger cuts of meat, give a 24-hour thaw time per 2 kg of meat. For smaller packs of meat, a full day of thaw time in the refrigerator is required.

Meat thawed using this method can stay in the refrigerator a few days after thawing before it is cooked.



Water Thawing

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The next best way to thaw frozen meat in less time than the refrigerator method is cool water thawing. Leaving your meat in its packaging, immerse it in cool water. Smaller cuts of meat (up to one pound) should thaw within an hour. Cuts that are 1 to 1.5kg size should be given 2-3 hours to thaw.

For large cuts of meat, give them approximately 30 minutes of thaw time per pound of meat. Make sure that your water is cool and not warm or hot! Many try to thaw their meat in hot water to speed up the process but hot water can also spoil the meat making it unsafe to eat. If you are using the cool water method to thaw your meat it must be cooked immediately after thawing.



Microwave Thawing

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Be sure to either cook your meat immediately after thawing or store it in the refrigerator. This cannot be said enough. Bacteria grows the more it sits out on the counter and it spoils at a rapid rate.

It is perfectly acceptable to cook your meat frozen without thawing it first. If cooking it from a frozen state, just allow for a 50% more cook time. You should always use a separate place to cool cooked meat that is away from all other foods.



LEFTOVERS


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Make sure that you do not allow your meat to set out in the open air for very long. Cooked meat can spoil just as quickly as uncooked meat, depending on the type of meat in question. If you are unsure as to how long it can safely stay in the open air, store your leftovers away in the refrigerator immediately after your meal.

When packing away leftovers, do not stack them too tightly in the refrigerator. Air needs to be able to get in and around your food to keep it all at a 5 degrees temperature. If you are in doubt as to how long those leftovers have stayed in your refrigerator, do not eat them. Go ahead and throw it away. It’s not worth getting sick over.

Meat is sensitive and can spoil very quickly if not handled correctly. With summer quickly upon us, meat will spoil quicker in the hotter temperatures. Extra time and attention need to be paid to your protein to ensure you keep you and your family healthy, happy, and safe.