18 Nov 2021
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28 Sep 2021
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
01 Oct 2021
We’re all familiar with food allergies, but nowadays you constantly hear terms like “sensitivity” and “intolerance” to different foods. These three terms often get lumped together, but they’re unique conditions that elicit different responses from the body and have varying levels of seriousness. So, what do all these terms mean? And how should they affect your cooking?
Of the three, food allergies are the most serious. A food allergy is an immune response in your body, usually diagnosed by an allergist with a formal test. The cause of food allergies is still unknown, but the body perceives a harmless food as a threat and in response releases an immune hormone called histamines to “attack” that food it sees as harmful. The release of these histamines causes various symptoms such as hives, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. The onset of symptoms from an allergic reaction is usually immediate.
In cases of extreme allergic reactions, the victim can go into anaphylaxis, a rare allergic condition which can cause fainting and restricting airways. Anaphylaxis requires emergency medical attention and can be life-threatening.
People can be allergic to almost anything, but the most common severe food allergies are milk, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, wheat, and shellfish.
Allergic reactions from food can range from a slight itch in the ears to a fatal case of anaphylaxis, and just a trace amount of the allergen can be enough to cause a dangerous reaction. Even those who believe they have a “mild” allergy may have a severe reaction any time they consume that allergen, so it’s best to avoid it altogether. Cooking for someone with a food allergy must be done with great caution.
While food intolerances are not as serious as allergies, they can cause significant illness and discomfort. An intolerance is not an immune response like an allergy, but instead is marked by the body’s inability to digest certain foods. Most food intolerances cause uncomfortable symptoms including stomach pain and diarrhea, but they are never life-threatening. Food intolerances are usually diagnosed by a doctor and symptoms often take several hours after eating to occur. Some common food intolerances are to lactose, a sugar found in cow’s milk, and wheat.
Unlike with allergies, those with food intolerances can usually have small amounts of the food they’re intolerant to. For example, those with a lactose intolerance may be able to have a little bit of grated parmesan cheese on a pizza or a touch of heavy cream cooked into a soup, but a spoonful of yogurt may make them sick. Similarly, someone with a mild intolerance to gluten may be able to have a dash of soy sauce over rice, but not a bowl of pasta.
There are, however, some more severe intolerances. Celiac disease is a rare intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, that can cause severe stomach pain, diarrhea, and violent vomiting. People with Celiac disease cannot have any traces of gluten.
Compared to food allergies and intolerances, food sensitivities have the mildest of reactions. Similar to an allergy, food sensitivity is an immune response so it can affect multiple organs with a wide range of symptoms including headaches, fatigue, rashes, and nausea.
The reaction from a food sensitivity can begin hours, or even days, after eating. Because of the delayed onset, food sensitivities can be hard to pinpoint and many of them go undiagnosed. Food sensitivity to gluten, for example, can be as simple as generally feeling tired a couple of days after eating bread. A good way to figure out if you have food sensitivity is to systematically eliminate certain foods from your diet for a week or two at a time to see if there’s a change in how you feel. You can also get tests for certain food sensitivities.
For many people with food insensitivities, a moderate amount of the ingredient will not lead to symptoms. However, as with allergies and intolerances, the level of sensitivity varies from person to person.
Food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities are all challenging conditions that should be taken seriously when cooking. When cooking for others with any of these conditions, be sure to talk to them beforehand and fully understand the nature and severity of their condition. If it’s just a mild sensitivity or intolerance, you may be able to use a little bit of the ingredient to make the tastiest dish possible. But, if your guest has a severe food allergy, you should steer clear of that ingredient.
At CookinGenie, all allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities are taken very seriously. CookinGenie chefs undergo a rigorous interview process, and they are adaptable to different dietary restrictions. The CookinGenie support staff will also work with you closely to ensure your meal meets your requirements so that you can sit back, relax, and enjoy a delicious homecooked meal.
02 Jun 2021
One of the most dominant food trends over the past several years has been the rise of veganism. Back in 2004, there were only about 300,000 vegans living in the U.S. But in 2019, that number was over 9 million, representing a 300% increase over 15 years. Plus, reporting using google search trends shows that worldwide interest in veganism hit an all-time high in 2020.
It’s easy to understand why this rise is happening. Extensive medical research has shown that a vegan, or plant-based, diet can have health benefits ranging from weight loss, diabetes prevention, decreased risk of cancer, improved heart health, and more.
Another great reason for a vegan diet is the environment. As the planet continues to warm, people are looking for ways to live more environmentally-friendly, and eating plant-based is one of the most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
But it’s not just hard-core animal lovers and health nuts that are driving the push towards veganism. Several high-profile celebrities such as singers Ariana Grande and Beyonce, actors Zac Efron and Liam Hemsworth, and even former president Bill Clinton, eat a plant-based diet.
Athletes are in on the trend too. There are dozens of world-class vegan athletes, including U.S. women’s soccer star Alex Morgan, NBA point guards Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving, and the world’s top-ranked male tennis player, Novak Djokovic. All of these elite athletes say that their performance improved after switching to a vegan diet.
However, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A recent survey from Packaged Facts show that eating a flexitarian diet, which is largely plant-based, with some meat and dairy, is also ticking upwards, with about 36% of U.S. consumers identifying as such.
Despite all these trends, it can still be very challenging to find healthy, wholesome, delicious vegan and vegetarian food. Many restaurant menus still offer very little meat-free options. Lots of us grew up in meat-centric households and have friends and family who still sneer at the idea of veganism. Plus, if you’re not used to cooking vegan food, it can be hard to make filling, satisfying entrees with vegetables.
That’s where CookinGenie comes in. Whether you’re a committed vegan, vegetarian, or just trying to eat more veggies, CookinGenie can help you eat more delicious plant-based meals. Genie Christian Farah even offers a 100% vegan menu. But don’t worry, his entirely plant-based menu still has delicious favorites like an impossible cheeseburger and dairy-free mac n’ cheese, so you don’t have to compromise on taste. He also has other incredible whole food vegan options like a vibrant homemade falafel platter, inspired by his Lebanese heritage.
Other genies’ menus have more tasty plant-based offerings. You’ll find hearty vegan and vegetarian items like roasted cauliflower steaks with couscous, creamy mushroom risotto, and exciting international dishes like Indian lentil stew. Many of these dishes are also packed with healthy proteins.
Wherever, you may fall on the eating spectrum, if you’re looking for an affordable, easy, healthy, and delicious way to incorporate more plant-based meals in your diet, look no further than CookinGenie.