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Old 04-22-2009, 04:17 PM   #1
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Stir-Fry, Meat Doneness, Food Safety

Hello. I am new here and am new to cooking. I have taken 4 cooking classes and can also count the number of times I have cooked on my fingers.

One thing I would really like to cook is stir-fry. However, I am not sure how to tell when the little meat cutlets are done. With larger pieces of meat, such as salmon and chicken breast, I can just poke the piece of meat in the thickest part with a meat thermometer to see if it is done. Are you supposed to cut one of the little cutlets and look at the interior to see if it is done? If so, how can you tell? I have read that visual inspection of meat is not a sure-fire way to tell if it is done, though I have seen people do it all the time...

Another question I had was with regards to the tool you use to stir and move the food around in the pan when sauteing or stir-frying. Is it safe to use this tool from the very beginning, when you are moving around the raw meat, to the very end, where you use it to put the food on plates for serving? I have seen people do this all the time. My concern is that in the beginning, the raw meat juices will get on the spatula/tong. Of course, some of it will eventually get cooked as you are stir frying, but some of the juices may get a little higher up on the tool, away from the wok, so they will not be heated enough to cook fully. Then, there is a small chance that these still-raw juices will somehow get into the food/plate when you are done. Am I overly concerned? Thanks...

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Old 04-22-2009, 06:13 PM   #2
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I've never tried to cook large pieces of meat by stir-fry methods, always thin strips that cook relatively fast and it is always cooked first because it takes longer than the other ingredients. Some will even cook it separately and then will add it to the veggies once they are almost done.

And, yes, you are overly concerned.
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Old 04-22-2009, 07:59 PM   #3
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Just take your spatula or cooking tool and cut one in half. You should be able to tell easily if it's done. Chicken will be white and firm, beef pink or darker, pork also white and firm.
I use the same utensils from start to finish. If you are worried, rinse the tool after the meat begins cooking.
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Old 04-22-2009, 07:59 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by mcnerd View Post
And, yes, you are overly concerned.
I've never done it before.
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Old 04-24-2009, 07:03 PM   #5
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Welcome to DC, Laorulez! You ask some good questions! Just because you see people doing stuff all the time doesn't mean it's safe. Obviously it's not a good idea to use a tongues or spatula on raw product and then use it towards the end as well; the dish may be cooked well but it takes time for the heat to kill microorganisms. That said I do this myself and have never had any problems (knock on wood!).

Foods that are going to be stir fried are normally cut thin to facilitate quick cooking. If the meat you're cooking is beef it doesn't matter how done it is- simply cook it until it's as done as you prefer. Pork and chicken has to be cooked to a higher internal temp to be considered safe (in the case of the former about 140, 165 for the latter). While appearance isn't as reliable as taking a temperature reading with a thermocouple, it's accurate enough with thin peices. Pork should be cooked until it has barely any pink in it; chicken should be cooked until the flesh loses all translucence and is white and firm. When in doubt you can go until you think the meat is done, then add 1 full minute.

In any event, if your stirfry will have meat & veggies, cook the meat until it's completely done, then flash the veggies briefly to heat, then add the sauce. Veggies are best when they're still al dente, or a bit firm to the bite.

Feeling if meat is done by touch is more art than science, and it takes a lot of practice. I've spent most of my life working as a chef and even I will use a K-type thermocouple when I really want to be sure. Earlier today one of the broiler cooks where I work sent out a top sirloin that was supposed to be medium well and got it sent back- it was on the rare side of medium rare! Even experienced cooks can be fooled by variations in the products when they try to cook by "feel".
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Old 04-25-2009, 01:09 AM   #6
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Yeah, tx for the replies.
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Old 05-21-2009, 11:36 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by GrillingFool View Post
I use the same utensils from start to finish. If you are worried, rinse the tool after the meat begins cooking.
I wonder about that myself. Logic tells me if I use tongs to put a raw steak in a pan and cook it, by the time the inside is 140 degrees, the outside is definitely hot enough that any bacteria on the tongs that gets transferred back to the food would be killed when picking up the done steak.

But emotion tells me to rinse off the utensil anyway.
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Old 05-22-2009, 12:07 AM   #8
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I got in the habit years ago of cleaning my utensils in hot soapy water, wiping dow the prep station and putting stuff away while food was cooking so I could get me out of the kitchen faster. It didn't always work out that way, but the habit stuck.
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Old 05-22-2009, 09:47 AM   #9
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Nice habit to use, even if it occasionally gets relaxed, but that's why we are built with an immune system. It tries to pick up where we leave off and life goes on. Only those with reduced immune systems need to take extra care.....and we want our immune systems to get regular exercise because it protects us for those other occasions in life, so don't be TOO clean all the time.
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Old 05-22-2009, 10:19 AM   #10
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I put the meat in the pan with my hands. Turn it and handle the cooking/cooked meat with tongs. Wash at the end.

For stir fry technique, meat is cut into little strips or bits, and I put my cut up meat into a little bowl and pour it into the pan. No tongs used in stir fry.

Your hands are more likely to contaminate the food than the other utensils.
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