Extension Notes … by Christy Nuetzman

Posted May 22, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Ready to grill? Meat safety tips

Source: Jackie Walters,

Extension Specialist Nutrition Education Program

Warmer weather is approaching, and Kentuckians will soon head outdoors to barbecue our favorite cuts of meat. This time of year always brings questions about the safe purchasing, storage, handling, and cooking of meat.

Foodborne illnesses associated with meat generally result from one of two sources: bacteria found in the meat, and toxins produced by bacteria in the meat. The most effective way to prevent food borne illness is to prevent contamination. However, some bacteria are commonly present in raw meat when it is purchased. Bacteria do not generally affect the taste, smell, or appearance of a food. Therefore, it is impossible to tell if a food is safe to eat by looking at it, smelling it, or tasting it. Never taste a food to see if it is safe. If you are unsure of the safety of a food, throw it out.

Meat must be thoroughly cooked to kill bacteria. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends cooking meats to the following internal temperatures to assure their safety:

Beef, veal, lamb steaks and roasts, and fish- 145 degrees Fahrenheit

Ground meats (beef, veal and lamb) and pork- 160 degrees Fahrenheit

Poultry (turkey, chicken and duck)- 165 degrees Fahrenheit

A meat thermometer should be inserted into the center of the deepest muscle, not touching bone, to determine the internal temperature of the meat.

Once meat is cooked, care must be taken to prevent contaminating it again before it is eaten. After it has been cooked, touching meat with the same knife that was used to trim it before cooking, placing it on the same plate that was used to carry it to the grill, or using the same utensils used to place it on the grill, may transfer bacteria back onto the meat.

Since bacteria multiply rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the best way to slow their growth is to hold meat above 140 degrees or refrigerate it below 40 degrees. Refrigerating meat slows bacterial growth, but does not stop it. Freezing meat will further slow the growth of bacteria, and may even stop it. However, bacteria in frozen foods become active again when food is brought to room temperature. While cooking kills bacteria, it does not remove the toxins produced by bacteria, so meat must be held below 40 degrees Fahrenheit or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit when it is not being prepared or being eaten, to inhibit bacterial growth and limit the toxins they produce.

Here are some ways to assure that bacterial growth and production of toxins are limited in meat:

· Shop for meat just before checking out of the grocery store.

· Place meat in an insulated container with an ice pack for the trip home.

· Refrigerate or freeze meat immediately upon arriving home.

· Eat refrigerated meat within 3-5 days. Eat refrigerated ground meats and variety meats within 1-2 days.

· Thaw frozen meats in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Do not thaw meat at room temperature.

· Refrigerate cooked meats within an hour.

For more information grilling and to receive free recipes, contact the Clinton County Extension Office.

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