A Complete Guide to Cooking Meat Safely

How to Cook Meat Safely - CookinGenie blog

28 Sep 2021

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A Complete Guide to Cooking Meat Safely

There are many foods that can cause illness when handled incorrectly, but one of the most common instances of serious foodborne illness comes from the undercooking or mishandling of meat. Raw meat is often full of fecal matter from the animal, which can contain a host of bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens. Because of this, it is crucial to handle raw meat carefully and cook it to a safe temperature to kill as many pathogens as possible. If not, an undercooked piece of meat can easily get someone sick.

While this may sound simple, there are some intricacies to cooking meat safely, and not all meats are safe to eat at the same temperature. Here are some of the key things to remember when cooking meat and how some of the most popular meats need to be cooked in order to be safe to serve.

Keep raw meats separate from other foods—including other meats

It’s common sense that the juices from raw meat should stay away from fresh produce but it’s also good practice to keep raw meat away from other raw meat. As you’ll see with the minimum required internal temperatures, not all meats are safe at the same time. Chicken, for example, needs to be cooked more than steak. So, if you get the juices from raw chicken over your steak, the steak may be cooked all the way through, but the residual juice from the chicken may not be.

Also be sure to use separate cutting boards and utensils for different kinds of meat, wash your hands after handling raw meat, and disinfect any surfaces the meat may have come into contact with.

Minimum required internal temperatures

Poultry, like chicken and turkey requires the most cooking, while pork, beef, lamb, and seafood requires less. Note that ground meat of any kind requires more cooking than a whole piece of the same meat. This is because ground meat, with an increased surface area and the potential to come from more than one individual animal, has more exposure to bacteria. To take the temperature of a protein, insert a clean, sanitized thermometer into the thickest part of the meat and wait for the thermometer to read a temperature. For many meats, the meat needs to hold that temperature for a given period of time before it’s considered safe.

Also note that after you remove your meat from the heat, it will continue to cook for several more minutes in a process known as carry-over cooking, which will raise the internal temperature 5-10⁰F, so if your meat is a couple degrees under the minimum required internal temperature when you measure it, it’ll be safe to serve by the time you eat it.

The following are the minimum required internal temperatures for different proteins.

Poultry—Including whole or ground chicken, turkey, or duck: 165⁰F for at least 15 seconds

This also includes any stuffing inside of a bird (think thanksgiving) as well as any casseroles, stuffed pastas, or stuffed chicken breasts. When temping whole birds, make sure to insert the thermometer underneath the thigh, which is the thickest part of the bird.

Ground meat—Including beef, pork, lamb, veal, and ground seafood: 155⁰F for 15 seconds

Note that a medium burger is 140-145⁰F, and a well-done burger is 160⁰F.Eating a burger less than well-done could increase your chances of getting sick, which is why restaurants have the note at the bottom of their menus denoting the increased risk of foodborne illness from consuming undercooked meat.

Injected meat/brined meat—Including brined hams and roasts injected with flavor: 155⁰F for 15 seconds

Eggs that are meant to be held hot: 155⁰F for 15 seconds
Eggs that are to be served immediately: 145⁰F for 15 seconds

Chops/steaks of red meat—Including beef, lamb, veal, and pork: 145⁰F for 15 seconds

All of these meats will be a little pink at this temperature, but they’re safe to eat. A medium-rare steak is between 130-135⁰F, so there is a higher risk associated with eating steak under medium.

Whole roasts of pork, beef, veal, or lamb: 155⁰ for 4 minutes

Make sure to insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the roast. Because roasts are much bigger, the temperature needs to hold much longer to ensure it’s cooked through.

Whole seafood—Including whitefish, shellfish, and crustaceans: 145⁰F for 15 seconds

This applies to whole pieces of fish and shellfish/crustaceans such as shrimp, crab, and lobster. With bivalves such as mussels or clams, there is no need to measure temperature, they are safe when the shells open.

The bottom line

Overall, cooking meat to safe temperatures is a very simple, but very important task in the kitchen. Having a digital thermometer makes everything easier. If you’re unsure of how the meat needs to be cooked, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and slightly overcook a piece of meat than to get someone sick. When you book a chef from CookinGenie, you can trust that they’ll cook your meat so that it’s not only safe to eat, but also delicious.


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Can we all just agree that teachers are the unsung heroes of the pandemic?  

This spring—as the world as we knew it turned upside down—they quickly pivoted to teaching virtually, creating new lessons and mastering new technology with just a few days’ notice, and saying goodbye to their students at the end of the year via Zoom.  

And then this fall, when the promise of a vaccine seemed like a distant pipe dream, some welcomed students to a virtual classroom while others headed back to school and toggled between in-person and hybrid schedules. And they mastered this all on top of teaching daily lessons, providing emotional support (to kids and their hyper-stressed parents), fostering kids’ social development, and all the other invaluable services teachers provide their studentsand then they headed home to care for their own kids and families.    

 For all these reasons—and so many more! —teachers deserve a little extra appreciation this year during Teacher Appreciation Week. 

 While many gift ideas exist, CookinGenie can be perfect for teachers. At the click of a button, they can have us shop cook, and clean for them. Whether it is for a small dinner party they are hosting, or it is for them to take time off from cooking for the workweek CookinGenie gift card is a great way to give the gift of fresh home cooking to your favorite teachers and make them feel extra special as the school year winds down.  

 

Ordering is as easy as 1-2-3. 

Click here to order a gift card. 

  1. Choose from a variety of teacher-themed designs. 
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 However you choose to appreciate the teachers in your community, this Teacher Appreciation Week, we at CookinGenie, thank this wonderful group of people who have ensured our children’s growth, development, and well-being as we look back at an unprecedented year through the pandemic.

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Whether it be displayed out at your dinner party, the beginning of date night, or accompanying your favorite bottle of wine, a charcuterie board is a perfect accouterment. Charcuterie (pronounced “shahrkyut-uh-ree) is the French word for the art of cookery dedicated to the preparation of preserved meats, typically pork. The name charcuterie dates back to 15th-century shops which sold many different styles of pork, from terrines and pâtés to hams and sausages. They also specialized in confit, another preservation style involving slowly cooking protein in its rendered fat, for other delicacies like foie gras, a preparation of fatty duck or goose liver. The chef that runs the establishment is referred to as a Charcutier. In a more modern French kitchen, charcuterie is typically handled by a Garde Manger, a chef who is in charge of cold items like salads, cold soups, fruit, and charcuterie.  

Before they got to dinner parties: the origins of Charcuterie 

Charcuterie started as a way of life for people who were looking to preserve what they had excess of. Someone could take and eat what they could fresh from their kill and smoke or cure what they couldn’t currently use or didn’t want to go bad. Early examples of American cookbooks have recipes for a preserved culinary survival food called Pemmican, which is a loaf of dried beef, berries, and tallow to form a high-energy, simple food source. This was introduced by Native Americans and then eventually adopted by European fur traders and then found its way to the arctic as it was easy to prepare and would last for a long time before going bad.  

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Cooking for friends and family is one of the great joys in life. But without practicing proper food safety, cooking can make your loved ones sick, or in extreme cases, even kill them. Luckily, all it takes to prepare and serve food safely is following a few simple rules and using common sense. In honor of food safety month, here are some of the most important things to remember when cooking.

Wash your hands

One of the most important things you can do to keep food safe is constant handwashing. The first thing you should do when you walk into the kitchen is washing your hands. And wash them again after every completed task or when you start handling different ingredients, especially after touching raw meat.

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When in doubt, throw it out

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When cooking with canned ingredients, beware of cans that are rusted, dented, or swollen. Swollen cans are a sign of botulism, a dangerous spore that can be fatal. If there are any physical deformities on the can, put it right into the trash. There is a chance that every now and again you may throw out some food that’s still safe to use, but it’s always better safe than sorry.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold

As a general rule of thumb, you should try and avoid keeping foods out at room temperature as much as possible, especially more sensitive items like meat, dairy, and eggs. When cooking and storing food, be mindful of the “temperature danger zone”, a temperature range between 41⁰F and 135⁰F. This is the range in which bacteria grows and multiplies most quickly.

Temperatures above or below this range are usually too extreme for most bacteria to survive. So, if a dish is meant to be served hot, you should keep it on the stove or in the oven at 135⁰F or higher for as long as possible, and if it is meant to be served cold, you should keep it in refrigeration at 41⁰F or lower until it’s ready to serve.

It may be helpful to have a digital thermometer on hand to help ensure you’re keeping foods at the proper temperatures. If any highly sensitive foods like meat or dairy are left out in the temperature danger zone for more than four hours, they may be unsafe to eat. Any cooked food that is being reheated should be heated to 165⁰F for at least 15 seconds before serving.

Beware of Cross Contamination

Cross contamination occurs when bacteria or other contaminants are passed to food from shared surfaces or through the air. For example, if you cut raw chicken on a cutting board then later use that same cutting board for fresh vegetables, the vegetables may be contaminated with bacteria from the chicken. To avoid cross contamination, use different utensils for raw meats and vegetables. Also be sure to wash and disinfect counters and other kitchen surfaces frequently.

Consider food allergies

One of the scariest parts of cooking for others can be dealing with food allergies. Allergic reactions to food can range anywhere from a mildly upset stomach to life-threatening anaphylactic shock, where the victim’s throat can begin to shut.

Before your event, ask all your guests if they have any food allergies. If anyone in your party has a severe allergy, consider serving something without that ingredient at all. For people with severe allergies like nuts or shellfish, they may not even need to actively consume the allergen to have a dangerous reaction, just an invisible trace amount may be enough to cause serious symptoms. So, just making a portion without that ingredient may not be enough to keep them safe. When it comes to cooking for people with food allergies, you cannot be too careful.

Cook proteins properly

A common cause of foodborne illness is undercooked meats, especially chicken. Meats need to be cooked to proper internal temperatures to kill the majority of bacteria and parasites that can make you sick. When cooking meats, use a digital thermometer to measure the internal temperature and don’t serve it until the meat comes up to a safe level.

For example, chicken and other poultry need to reach an internal temperature of at least 165⁰F for 15 seconds before they’re safe to eat. For more specifics, check out our complete guide to safely cooking meat.

Wash raw ingredients well

Before cooking with fruits, herbs, or vegetables, rinse them off under cold running water to remove any debris, bacteria, or chemical coating. This is especially important with cantaloupe and honeydew, which always should be washed before cutting. It’s also good practice to rinse off your eggs before cooking with them.

Be extra cautious with the most vulnerable members of your family

When cooking for older or immunocompromised people, you have to be extra careful and attentive. For someone who’s young and healthy, a case of salmonella from an undercooked chicken breast could cause a few days of illness. But for an older person or someone suffering from an autoimmune disease, that salmonella could be fatal.

CookinGenie takes food safety seriously

When you book a chef through CookinGenie, you can be sure that food safety will be the top priority. Many of the genies are professionals with formal food safety training, and others are experienced home cooks with a proven track record of keeping people safe. Food safety is stressed, and every genie knows that’s the most important thing when cooking for you.

Better yet, when you allow a CookinGenie chef into your home, you can watch them cook to be sure the food is being handled properly. Unlike a restaurant, this in-home set-up allows much more transparency and peace of mind than dining out or ordering takeout.

Author – Jared Kent

 

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