Food prep. It’s a quintessential part of eating well. It also leaves you wide open to food poisoning.
At Abundant Life, we’re advocates for embracing your inner chef. Maybe you see yourself as a Jamie Oliver, producing smashing recipes from real ingredients. Or perhaps you’re more of a Julia Child, recognizing French cuisine as a serious art form. Or do you identify with Remy from Ratatouille, who used his highly developed sense of taste and smell to create “lightningy” flavors?
Chances are, no matter who you relate to, you’ve pulled out your cutting board and tried to create something in the kitchen. That’s fantastic! There’s no better place to start to take control of your health than in the kitchen. But if you’re not careful, it’s also one of the best places to make yourself seriously ill. Unsafe food hygiene practices can result in unwanted bacteria and germs that lead to food poisoning.
September is Food Safety Awareness Month. According to the CDC, approximately 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick from foodborne diseases annually. Of those, 128,000 end up in the hospital, and 3,000 people die.
This week, I want to focus on meat safety. To prevent yourself from becoming a statistic, here are 5 top tips to keep your meats safe!
Make sure you check the sell-by or use-by dates on the labels. Inspect the packages and make sure that they don’t have any holes in them. Is the meat discolored? Does it smell rancid? If the product is frozen, does it feel squishy or firm? If you purchase canned meat or fish, make sure the can is free from dents.
Once you get the meat home, refrigerate or freeze it immediately. (The fridge should be 36-40°F. Keep an eye on the expiry dates. If you aren’t going to use it by the use-by date, get it in the freezer. Store it and thaw it on the bottom shelf of the fridge so that none of the meat juices accidentally drip onto the food below. It’s a good idea to keep thawing meats on a plate or dish to prevent drips and spills from contaminating other foods.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water. Make sure aprons, dishtowels, and dishcloths are changed out frequently or washed often. Soak dishcloths and sponges in bleach water to kill any unwanted bacteria and allow them to air dry between uses to prevent bacterial growth.
It’s a good idea to keep long hair tied back. Cover any wounds or cuts with a brightly colored bandaid so you can easily find if it falls off when you are cooking. Try not to touch your face, nose, or lick your fingers when you are prepping foods.
Thaw meats in the fridge or by placing them into a sealable plastic storage bag and submerging them in a bowl of cold tap water. Change out the water every 30 minutes until the meat defrosts.
Never put cooked food on a surface that had raw meat on it. Don’t reuse plates or utensils that came into contact with the raw meat. It’s a good idea to put those dishes straight in the dishwasher or wash them up right away. You might consider having a dedicated cutting board that for raw meat. Composite or plastic cutting boards are ideal because they don’t absorb the bacteria.
Meats need to be cooked to a specific temperature to minimize the risk of food poisoning. To ensure accuracy, use a thermometer like this one.
|Ground beef, pork, veal, and lamb||160°F|
|Ground turkey, and chicken||165°F|
|Beef, veal, & lamb roast, steak, chops|
|Whole chicken or turkey (measure thigh)||170-175°F|
|Legs or thighs (measure thigh)||170-175°F|
|Stuffing (cooked in the bird)||165°F|
|Chops and roasts||145°F|
|Custard, sauces, ice-cream base 160°F||160°F|
Bacteria quickly multiply and increase your risk of food poisoning when food is between 40°F and 140°F. Therefore, it’s important to refrigerate or freeze leftovers within 2 hours. If the ambient temperature is over 90°F (like outdoors at a picnic,) the time window drops to 1 hour.
If you want to take your leftovers to work for lunch the next day, make sure they are in a cooler with ice or are placed directly in the fridge when you get to work. Reheat leftovers to 165°F and use them up within 2 to 4 days.
With a few simple steps, you can avoid an unnecessary infection or worse. When you shop, store, prep, and use your leftovers wisely while practicing good hygiene, you can embrace your inner chef and create the healthy life you deserve.
For most people, minor lifestyle changes will make a big difference. However, there are times when the problem runs deeper, and you need professional help. If you’ve tried to figure this out on your own, or you feel like you’re lost in a maze of information and aren’t sure which path to take, don’t give up hope.
We have a range of different approaches that will help you figure out the root cause of your dysfunction and stop the cycle of sickness so you can feel better now. Book your free 30-minute Breakthrough Strategy Session today.