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Producing safe food is good for consumers -- and good for business. By the time food reaches your kitchen, members of the meat and poultry industry have taken many actions to assure safety. Government inspectors also oversee meat and poultry processing to verify compliance with federal regulations.
However, it is essential that food preparers take steps to maintain safety all the way to the table. Practicing safe-handling methods in the home can reduce the risk of foodborne illness and keep your family healthy.
Below are the basics of food safety in the home kitchen. For safe-handling instructions specific to a meat product type, click on the product in the box, on the right above.
Always purchase fresh meat and poultry products last.
Meat and poultry products should feel cold to the touch. Do not purchase products that feel warm, as this indicates that the product has not been stored at the proper temperature.
Place products in a plastic bag to prevent juices from leaking onto other raw products in your shopping cart.
Choose packages that are tightly wrapped and have no tears or punctures. Be sure the packages do not contain excessive liquid, which can be an indication of temperature abuse or excessive storage. For vacuum-packaged products, be sure that the seal has not been broken and that the package is not leaking.
Refrigerator temperature should be at 40 degrees F or below, to keep foods out of the "danger zone." Keeping foods cold will inhibit bacterial growth.
Refrigerate or freeze fresh meat and poultry products as soon after purchasing as possible. If it takes longer than thirty minutes to get the products home, keep them cold in a portable ice chest or cooler.
Re-wrap meat and poultry products tightly for freezer storage using freezer paper or plastic freezer bags (products may be kept in original packaging if prepared within one week).
When refrigerating meat and poultry products, place the package in the meat compartment or in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
When refrigerated, place the meat/ poultry packages on a tray or inside a plastic storage container to ensure that juices do not leak onto other food items.
Do not defrost frozen meat and poultry products at room temperature. Keeping the products cold during defrosting is the key to preventing bacteria from growing.
Always cook fresh meat and poultry products immediately after microwave defrosting. During microwave defrosting, random areas will sometimes begin to cook, creating temperatures easily high enough for harmful bacteria to thrive.
To defrost meat or poultry products in cold water, do not remove original packaging. Be sure the package is airtight or put it into a leak-proof bag before submerging the product completely in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes so that it continues to defrost. Note: Foods defrosted in the microwave or by the cold-water method should be cooked before re-freezing because they may have been held at temperatures higher than 40 F.
Wash all utensils, cutting surfaces and counters with hot, soapy water after contact with meat and poultry. If possible, use a separate cutting board for fresh meat and poultry products.
Wash hands thoroughly in hot, soapy water before and after handling meat and other fresh foods.
Keep fresh meat and meat juices away from other foods, both in the refrigerator and during preparation.
Never place cooked foods on the same platter, board or tray that held fresh meats or poultry.
Cook all meat and poultry products to the suggested internal temperature to eliminate any harmful bacteria that may be in the product (see product section for specific times).
Use a thermometer to ensure that meats and poultry are cooked to their proper temperature(s).
When grilling meat or poultry products, use separate plates to transport fresh and cooked products.
Meat and poultry cooked in slow cooker will remain at a safe temperature as long as the cooker is operating. Direct heat from the crock pot, lengthy cooking and steam created within the tightly-covered container help to destroy bacteria and make the slow cooker a safe process for cooking foods.
It is safe to cook frozen meat or poultry in the oven, on the stove, or grill without defrosting it first; the cooking time may be about 50 percent longer. Do not cook frozen meat or poultry products in a slow cooker.
Steaks, Burgers, Sausages, Hams, Pork, Poultry, Deli Meats.- Meats should be kept in freezer until they are ready to be used. They can be kept in refrigerator if they are going to be used within 1 day of arrival. Let steaks thaw the night before use in your refrigerator. Remove meats from vacuum seal bags and allow meat to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to serving .
Grilling Beef Prepare grill with 2/3 of coal on one side of pit, 1/3 on the other. This will allow you to sear steaks to lock in juices on higher heat and then cook on lower heat.
Seafood - Should always be kept on ice in your freezer. Seafood can be baked in the oven at 350 Degrees until its even color throughout. Seafood can also be breaded and pan fried.