Handling meats. The key is proper refrigeration—at all times, including
the period from the store to your home. Most raw meats will keep for about
three days under proper refrigeration, and they should be cooked within
that time. Refrigerators with a special “meat keeper” compartment may
safely lengthen the storage time by two or three days.
There should be little or no discernible odor to fresh meat. Spoiled
meat may turn brown, green or rainbow-colored, develop spots or have a
The safety rule for frozen meats is simple: Keep them thoroughly frozen.
Frozen raw meats that have been thawed must be cooked thoroughly before
they can be safely refrozen.
Storing foods. Perishables must be kept at temperatures of 40°F or colder.
And frozen products must be held at 32°F or below. Check your refrigerator
with a thermometer to make sure it is accurate and working at these levels.
Keep raw meats separate from other foods in the refrigerator: Don’t
allow meat to contaminate other foods by touching or dripping on them.
It’s a good idea to store these items on a low shelf in containers that will
not leak onto other foods.
The thawing process. Frozen foods are best thawed in the refrigerator.
This may take two days and even longer for large roasts and turkeys. Safe
thawing alternatives are using a microwave or running cool water over the
item while it’s tightly wrapped in plastic, followed by immediate cooking.
Never thaw frozen meats at room temperature. Bacteria can multiply
rapidly on the warmer surfaces of thawing foods that are still frozen inside.
Preparing the food. Continue keeping foods separate to prevent contamination. Don’t cut vegetables on the same surface that you cut meat on—and
wash these surfaces when switching tasks. Likewise, use separate knives
and utensils while preparing your foods. And wash your hands with hot,
soapy water to make sure you don’t pass bacteria.
Don’t taste raw cake or cookie batter, or any other food that contains
uncooked eggs. And marinate foods in the refrigerator—not on the counter.
Cooking tips. One of the best kitchen investments is a metal probe thermometer. Always clean the thermometer in hot, soapy water before you use
it. When inserting the thermometer, make sure it doesn’t touch the bone,
which will make the reading inaccurate. Also, don’t leave the thermometer
in the meat while it’s cooking—it can pick up the temperature of the air in
the oven, making your reading inaccurate.
The best guide to proper cooking temperatures is usually right on the
product labels. Follow these instructions, and use your thermometer to
make sure the food has been cooked to the right temperature.
Handling leftovers. Refrigerated leftovers should be used within three
days. Make sure leftovers are reheated quickly to 170°F. Reheat only the
amount you plan to eat and leave the rest refrigerated.—Tim Talevich
Summer is the season for picnics
and barbecues, but it brings some food-safety risks. Food transported without
proper refrigeration or left in the sun at
a picnic won’t stay safe for long. Here
are helpful food-preparation hints for a
picnic or barbecue.
• Keep the cooler in the shade. Keep
the lid closed and avoid repeated
openings. Replenish the ice if it melts.
• Use a separate cooler for drinks
so the one containing perishable
food won’t be constantly opened
• Except when being served, the food
should be stored in a cooler.
• When handling raw meat, remove
from the cooler only the amount that
will fit on the grill. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends
against eating raw or undercooked
ground beef because harmful bacteria
could be present.
• Cook hamburgers and ribs to 160°F
( 71°C). Cook ground poultry to
165°F ( 74°C) and poultry parts to
180°F ( 82°C). Reheat precooked
meats until steaming hot.
• Do not partially grill extra hamburgers
to use later. Once you begin cooking
hamburgers by any method, cook
them until they’re completely done.
• When taking food off the grill, put it
on a clean plate. Don’t put the
cooked items on the same platter
that held the raw meat.
• Place leftover foods in the cooler
promptly after grilling or serving. Any
left outside for more than an hour
should be discarded. There should
still be ice in the cooler when you get
home to keep the food cold enough.
For more information on food safety, see