Food Safety 101

     A year ago I took a food safety class and became certified in the safe handling of food.  Periodically, I will be sharing helpful hints and tidbits of information necessary to keep your loved ones safe.
     This isn’t the most pleasant subject, but it’s extremely important! Did you know that E.coli bacteria is in 25% of ground beef in the United States? E.coli is a surface bacteria that through grinding, incorporates the bacteria throughout the meat. The good news is that when cooked to the proper 155′ internal temperature, it does not survive.
     What does this mean? Number one NEVER serve ground beef rare or even pink to small children, pregnant women, older adults, or someone with a compromised immune system. There is a simple way to be sure you’ve cooked ground beef properly and that is an instant read thermometer. They run about $10 and can be found at Target or most any kitchen supply store.  Simply inject the thermometer in to the center part of the hamburger for 30-60 seconds and get a reading of 155′ or higher, and you’re good. When cooking steaks that are seared or grilled, you needn’t worry as the bacteria doesn’t survive the cooking on the surface.  It is ok to serve pink steak to children, etc.
     Additionally, be very careful when you are handling ANY raw meats. Designate a section on your counter for handling raw meats, and if possible, designate another section for vegetables and ready to eat items as they do not go through a cooking process to make them safe.
     Last but not least, wash your hands with hot water and plenty of soap for 20 seconds before, during, and after handling raw meats.

Food Safety Tips for Leftovers…..

So, you’ve spend hours and hours preparing all that delicous food, and it’s over in 30 minutes…talk about anticlimactic!!  You then have the daunting task of dealing with all that leftover food!  Enlist your guests to help you to get everything into the refrigerator soon after eating.    I use plastic zip bags for all leftovers, they will fit beautifully in your refrigerator when space is at a minimum.  I recommend dismanteling the turkey first, reserve all the meat and SAVE THE CARCASS!!  We are going to make some beautiful stock with it very soon, remove the meat saving any pieces such as wing tips and any bones, wrap with cling wrap and put into a large zip bag and freeze.   If you haven’t eaten a good amount of the turkey meat after a couple of days, why not freeze for later.  Always label the bag with the contents and the date it goes into the freezer, Sharpe pens work great on plastic bags.

It is important when you use leftovers that you heat them to a high enough temperature before eating, a minimum temperature of 165′.  It is important too, that you allow microwaved food sit for at least 2 minutes for even heat distribution.

Test your food safety knowledge…..

What is the best way to defrost a frozen turkey?…………A. In a bowl of water on the counter, B. On the counter on top of paper towels, C. In the refrigerator, D. In the microwave……………………..The answer is C, in the refrigerator. You must allow several days for a large bird to defrost. If after several days it is not defrosted, you can place the bird in a large bowl in the sink and allow cold water to run into the bowl, overflowing down the drain. I would recommend ordering a fresh turkey, you can pick it up the day before Thanksgiving and simply bake it on Thanksgiving day! Butch Novack, at The Villager in Oak Park sells fabulous fresh turkeys, I believe you must order ahead. The number is 708-386-1800. The address is 1135 Chicago Avenue.

Test your food safety knowlege……

Where is the best place to store eggs in your refrigerator?
A. In the vegetable crisper;
B. In the door;
C. In the deli drawer;
D. On a middle shelf towards the back

The answer is D. This is the coolest part of the refrigerator. You do not want to store them in the door because it is the warmest part of the refrigerator due to teenagers standing at the open door waiting for something delictable to magically appear…..and yes, this happens repeatedly.