- Wash your hands and any surfaces meat has touched often.
- Don't cross-contaminate your meats.
- Cook meats to their proper temperatures.
- Refrigerate all meats immediately.
Let's look at these guidelines in further detail.
When I work with meats, I wash everything constantly, especially my hands. Always wash hands in hot, soapy water before and after touching meats as well as all surfaces the meat has been on. Washing hands before handling meats will help prevent adding bacteria to meats. Cleaning and washing hands and surfaces immediately after handling will help eliminate bacteria that is laying around quickly. You don't want to accidentally put your fingers in your mouth after touching meat, or after touching a surface that meat has been on. Additionally, you don't want to spread the bacteria to other areas or people.
One thing I do when preparing meats and other foods is to use a separate cutting board for the meats, especially when working with chicken. This helps prevent cross-contamination. In addition, you should also wash utensils that have cut meat before using them to cut something else. Don't just rinse them. You should use hot, soapy water with these items as well. Cleaning your grill surface after meat has been cooked on it will also help you avoid cross-contaminating other foods.
Cook to Proper Temperature
All meats have specific temperatures that you should cook them to. Having a cooking thermometer on hand will help you in knowing when meat has reached the proper temperature. The suggested internal temperature for most meats is 165 degrees. This is medium done for most meats, with the exception of chicken which needs to be cooked completely to avoid illness.
Meat should always be chilled immediately to prevent bacteria from growing. In fact, temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees are considered the "danger zone" because this is the range in which bacteria grow most rapidly. Keep meats cold at a temperature below 40 degrees and do not leave out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours. Of course, when temperatures reach 90 degrees you shouldn't leave meats out longer than 1 hour.
Follow these simple rules and you should be able to avoid nasty foodborne illnesses.