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Old 06-12-2003, 11:40 PM   #1
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Cooking meat safely

I was just going through quite a few books tonight to get some new recipes, and kept bumping into common themes that seem like overkill to me. For example, I was reading that you should wear gloves when applying a rub to meat--if you're applying the rub to different kinds of meat then you should wear a different pair of gloves for each type. I also read a few words of caution about marinades, which I use all the time. These are only a couple of examples, but there are many more i could name that i never ever follow.

So I'm wondering: are these just overcautious measures that are put into books just to protect the writer from lawsuits?

I tend to undercook meat, if anything. I like my steaks medium-rare, and I rarely cook pork chops above 150 deg., etc. There are some rules I follow, however--for example, you'll never find any pink in any of my chicken, and I don't cook ground meats to anything except well-done. I've always heard that ground meats are really the only ones you have to watch out for.

I have never gotten sick from anything I've cooked, and neither have any of my guests. So have I just been lucky? Can anyone name some procedures that I should absolutely follow?



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Old 06-13-2003, 06:11 AM   #2
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Some simple guidelines for Food Sanitation and Safety

Unless you're going to live in a specially engineered environment with no food borne illness, there is always a chance of salmonella, e. coli, etc. For instance, a bbq or picnic where the potato salad and chicken is left out all day is a very high risk, while cooking dinner for some friends and family poses a very small risk. But there are some factors that you have to take into account:

1. Always wash your hands with soap when handling seperate ingredients to prevent cross contamination. Now if you're making a dry rub or marinade for say, a rib roast, do you have to wash your hands before you rub the marinade into the roast? No. Do you have to open the refrigerator or cupboards to get the spices/herbs out? Then yes, wash them. Even if you cook the meat to rare, you're only going to touch the outsides of the meat. A marinade will only reach 1/8" through the surface of the meat--and that's being left over night--so there is very little danger of contamination unless your storage methods are poor. Now if you're debonning raw chicken, and then you're going to cut some tomatoes for a salad, of course you wash your hands.

2. Wash your equipment. Besides your hands, one of the biggest culprits of cross contamination are knives, cutting boards, and other multi-task tools.

3. Time vs. Temperature. There are basically three numbers to remember: 4, 40, and 140. The food danger zone is between 40 and 140 degrees Farenheit. Anything foods left in that zone for over four hours is considered contaminated, because that's about how long it takes for the bacterias to cultivate and develop. Now of course raw celery that's been at room temp for four hours is going to be safer than raw eggs which has been left out for that same amount of time. To be even more careful, condense that zone to 2 hours, 1 hour if it's in the sun.

4. Proper cooking. If your foods have been properly handled, then there is little danger from getting sick from rare meat. The FDA has stict guidelines and the state Health Departments have even stricter guidelines. Butchers, vendors, and retailers have to be extra, extra, extra careful about food contamination so you can be sure that your product you are purchasing has been handled properly. When it's in your hands, then you need to take responsibility. Things like refrigerating or freezing the product as soon as possible, minding the time and temperature rule (but don't leave it in a hot car for 3 1/2 hours and then still think it's good because it hasn't been out for 4 hours yet), and proper handling must still be taken into consideration.

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Old 06-13-2003, 01:30 PM   #3
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All of the above is quite correct. Careless treatment of foodstuffs does increase the risk of bacterial illness. But the fact is the risk is rather small. Else humanity would not have survived until Lister, Pastuer, et al discovered bacteria, etc. One is at considerably greater risk in an automobile.

Recent studies seem to indicate – quite logically – that early and continued exposure to bacterial pathogens tends to strengthen the immune system. It has been recommended that parents permit their small children to get a little dirty and play in the mud for that reason.

Trichinosis, the scourge of pork in years past, is rather rarely seen in domestic pigs in the U.S. now, so the overcooking of pork is much less risky than it was, say, 50 years ago. As for other meats and poultry, both are raised and butchered under more sanitary conditions than previously, although not a pristine as the USDA would have us believe. Even so, the probability of becoming infected with salmonella or E. Coli is fairly remote. That fact that those incidences of infection make the evening news points up the unusual nature of the occurrence.

As for rubs and marinades, most of those contain salt, vinegar, capsaisin,sugar, alcohol, etc., in quantities that are anti-bacterial, so contamination or cross contamination is highly unlikely. Recall that meats are cured with salt or sugar, peppers and chiles are used worldwide because refrigeration is unavailable, vinegar preserves both vegetables and meats… and so on.

There is a reasonably safe middle of the road between being a complete slob in the kitchen and being obsessive about cleanliness. Obviously, the vast majority of people, like Carnivore and myself, take pretty much that common sense approach to what is evidently a non-problem.
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Old 06-13-2003, 02:11 PM   #4
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thanks for the info & comments, guys. I think I have pretty good procedures--i always freeze meat the day i buy it unless i'm going to eat it in the next day or 2. i always wash my hands after handling raw meat before i touch anything else, and anything (dishes, utensils, whatever) that touches raw meat gets washed in hot soapy water before it's used for anything else.
I guess i'll keep doing what i'm doing until the day i get sick
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Old 06-13-2003, 02:17 PM   #5
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the last post was from me--i deleted all my cookies (no pun intended) and forgot to log in before posting.

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Old 07-15-2004, 10:45 AM   #6
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Yes the writers of those books are covering their butts. While there is a rick of getting sick if you do not follow what they say, that risk is very very very small. There is always something more you can do to protect yourself, but it can go too far. When you buy chicken in the supermarket, do you wear gloves when you place it in your basket? Did the person who used the basket before you have chicken juice on their hands? Do you wash your hands before you leave the store? Well not your steering wheel is contaminated. So it your door handle, seatbelt. What about your wallet that you grabbed to pay for the food at the store?

My point is that we hear about all these rules about food safety these days and for the most part these rules are good rules to follow, however if you slip up and do not follow them to the letter every single time then chances are nothing bad is going to happen. Now please don't think that I am saying that you don't have to watch out for cross contamination or keeping foods at the correct temperature (out of the danger zone). Try to do your best, but know that a lot of the rules you hear are a little more strict than they need to be. I completely agree with Oldcoot about early and continued exposure to bacterial pathogens strengthening the immune system. There IS such a thing as being too clean.
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Old 07-15-2004, 11:00 AM   #7
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Amen GB! You can wash away and sterilize away all the body's natural defenses.
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Old 07-30-2004, 06:47 PM   #8
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I eat raw meat often so I guess I can't say much other than if you are working with poultry...wash your hands and clean your counter after working with poultry. Never ever use the same board for veggies and meats...especailly poultry. If you follow these rules you should not have any serious problems. I have never had food borne illness other than the Norwalk Virus.....and I have not had that in over 20 years. Probably the worst feeling you can have. Just wash your hands and stay off cruise ships.

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