How to Handle Meat Properly | Most germs can thrive on raw meat and other animal products. This risk is why you need to handle and store your meat cuts safely and keep them from spoiling. Handling your meats properly is one way of protecting you and your loved ones from foodborne illness. Here are some tips that’ll help you manage, cook, and serve your meat dishes safely.
Choose Your Meat Cuts Wisely
If you’re heading over to a grocery or meat shop in Metro Manila, keep these tips in mind so you know what to look for when getting products for your next dish:
- Get your meat last during your grocery run to decrease its time out of the refrigerator and extend its shelf life until you get home.
- Don’t buy dark brown, discolored, smelly, or slimy pork or beef cuts that feel tough to the touch.
- Check the packaging of your frozen goods. Avoid getting ones with worn, leaking, or split packaging since these defects can expose the meat to germs and other harmful organisms.
- Put meat in a plastic bag so its juices won’t spill on other raw food. You should also separate different types of meat to avoid cross-contamination.
Handle Your Meat with Care
If you’re preparing meat for your usual dishes or cooking grilled recipes, make sure to handle the cuts you’ll use safely. Clean your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Make sure to rinse properly before and after handling raw or cooked meat. Frequent handwashing is a must as germs can linger on your hands and transfer to your food.
Using another surface for your meat can also prevent the spread of harmful bacteria. Be sure to separate meat cuts and other ingredients like vegetables or eggs as you cook.
You can also try putting meat and other ingredients on different cutting boards. Place uncooked meat on one board and fruits and vegetables on another. You can get color-coded cutting boards for your kitchen so you’ll know which ones are for raw meats and fruits or veggies.
Always clean the utensils that you used for prep, and serve your dish with another set of utensils.
Should You Rinse Meat Cuts Before Cooking Them?
Some people believe that they should wash meat before cooking it. However, meat scientist Jonathan Campbell, Ph.D., thinks otherwise.
In a video that’s part of the North American Meat Institute’s Meat MythCrushers series, Dr. Campbell warns that you can spread germs to other parts of your kitchen if you rinse your meats. He stated that cooking your meat at the right temperature is better in eliminating deadly bacteria rather than washing them. This means that you shouldn’t rinse your meat cuts before cooking them.
Keep Meat Cool & Fresh
After taking your meat cuts home, you can either refrigerate or freeze them. Putting meat at the bottom shelf or meat bin is one option for refrigerating your cuts. You can store meat cuts at a temperature between 28°F to 32°F (-2.22°C to 0°C).
If you want to store your meats in the freezer, make sure that the temperature is close to 0°F (-17.8°C) so they stay tasty and fresh. Uncooked meat is something that you want to freeze so it can last longer. Always use airtight containers for your frozen meats for storage.
When thawing your frozen meat from the freezer, what most people do not know is that it is better to thaw it inside the compartment where you usually store your vegetables than thawing it outside your fridge at room temperature. After thawing it, you should never freeze it again.
You may also wonder, “What do I do about cooked meat?” The answer is simple: don’t keep cooked meat away from your refrigerator for more than two hours. Leftovers should be eaten immediately or frozen within three to four days to keep them from spoiling.
How Long Can You Store Meat?
The meat cuts you buy have different shelf lives when you refrigerate or freeze them. Below is a chart showing how long you should keep your meat cuts frozen or refrigerated:
|Type of Meat||Storage time when refrigerated||Storage time when frozen|
|Raw ground meat||One to two days||Three to four months|
|Raw steaks or chops||Three to four days||Four months to a year|
|Cooked meat||Three to four days||Two to six months|
|Hotdogs and luncheon meat||Up to one day for opened ones, or up to two weeks for sealed products||One to two months|
Cook Your Meat Cuts Safely
Cooking your meats at the right temperature is vital in keeping them delicious and safe to eat. Below are the optimal cooking temperatures for your next dish:
- 120°F to 125°F (48.9°C to 51.7°C) for rare meat
- 140°F to 145°F (60°C to 62.8°C), giving you medium-cooked meat
- 165°F (73.9°C) or higher if you’re after well-done meat
People heat meat cuts at different temperatures. Cooking them at varying temperatures will yield different results based on how you want them.
What’s the Right Cooking Temperature for Ground Meat?
Ground meat should be cooked at 160°F (71.1°C). Since ground products are most likely to get microbes, you should cook them at higher temperatures.
What’s the Right Cooking Temperature for Whole Meat?
Whole meats can be cooked at around 145°F (62.8°C) for best results. However, if you’re heating whole pork, make sure you’ve set your stove to medium-high to eliminate deadly worms and parasites that can be on the meat.
As for beef products like steaks, roasts, and chops, you can cook beef at varying temperatures. You can go for a medium or well-done finish, or go low and slow on your roast. If you want to cook your steak rare, make sure that you’re getting the freshest produce. Just make sure to make them rest for at least three minutes after cooking so the heat can destroy any remaining bacteria.
Know the Organisms Associated with Meat
Have you ever wondered which types of bacteria can thrive in meat cuts? Here’s a shortlist of organisms associated with meat.
- Beef: E.coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus (bacteria in the nose), and Listeria monocytogenes (Listeria)
- Pork: E.coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria, and Yersinia enterocolitica (Yersinia)
Make Meat Safety Your Top Priority
Meat safety lets you ensure that your favorite cuts remain fresh and edible before you consume them. It’s all about handling the food properly when you shop and cook it. In turn, you and your loved ones can stay safe and enjoy delicious meals.
If you’re after a hearty or healthy meat dish, consider adding prime pork, beef, or lamb cuts from Tenderbites to your recipe. Find the perfect meat for your next meal on our online store today.