|Should I Wash...?|
|Should I Wash...?|
As an Extension agent in Food Safety, I get calls frequently asking about the safety and need for washing their beef or poultry products before cooking. The following is what I tell them as a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and the USDA.
Should I wash beef, pork, lamb or veal before cooking it?
There is no need to wash or rinse beef, pork, lamb or veal before cooking; therefore, it is not recommended. Some consumers think they are removing bacteria from the meat and making it safer; however, any bacteria present on the surface is destroyed by cooking it. In fact, washing creates the danger of cross-contamination. Washing allows most bacteria present on the surface of meat to spread to ready-to-eat foods, kitchen utensils and counter surfaces. (This is from the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and USDA.)
Should I wash chicken or other poultry before cooking?
There is no need to wash or rinse poultry before cooking; therefore, it is not recommended. Some consumers think they are removing bacteria from the poultry and making it safer; however, any bacteria present on the surface is destroyed by cooking it to 165°. In fact, washing creates the danger of cross-contamination. Washing allows most bacteria present on the surface of poultry to spread to ready-to-eat foods, kitchen utensils and counter surfaces. (This is from the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and USDA.)
What are the safest ways to thaw foods?
Foods must be kept at a safe temperature during thawing. Foods are safe indefinitely while frozen. However, as soon as food begins to defrost and become warmer than 40°, any bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to multiply.
Foods should never be thawed or even stored on the counter, or defrosted in hot water.
Even though the center of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food is in the Danger Zone, between 40° and 140° – temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly.
There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave. Planning ahead is the key when refrigerator thawing because of the lengthy time involved. Even small amounts of frozen food like a pound of ground meat require a full day to thaw.
Foods defrosted in the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking, although there may be some loss of quality.
Cold-water thawing is faster than refrigerator thawing, but requires more attention. The food must be in a leak-proof package or plastic bag. The bag should be submerged in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes. Small packages of meat or poultry – about a pound – may defrost in an hour or less. For whole turkeys, estimate about 30 minutes per pound. If thawed completely, the food must be cooked immediately. Foods thawed by cold-water method should be cooked before refreezing.
When microwave defrosting food, plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during the defrosting. Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present wouldn’t have been destroyed and may have reached optimal temperatures for bacteria to grow. Foods thawed in the microwave should be cooked before refreezing.
Angela Treadaway is a Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety. For any questions on food safety or preparation of vegetables, contact her at (205) 410-3696 or your local county Extension office.